KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Jagan Nath Sathu – II

The Hamdard’s publication of Sir Zafarullah Khan’s speech at the UN had created a storm in the Valley, and the government was livid.

 “Sheikh Abdullah was the emergency administrator,” Jagan Nath Sathu said of those days.  “His close aide, Shyam Lal Wanth, beat up a Hamdard hawker and ordered him to stop selling the newspaper or face dire consequences.”

The Hamdard carried the incident the next day, and Sathu wrote Sheikh Abdullah a letter:

“If the government is determined to suppress and muzzle the voice of the press as is evident from the attitude of  Shyam  Lal Wanth, I can assure you we will resist to our last breath.”

There was more trouble with the government, and ultimately the newspaper was closed down.

In 1950, Sathu too was exiled. He went to New Delhi and stayed with Prem Nath Bazaz.

Meanwhile, together with Sham Lal Yacha,  Aalam Sartaj and Comrade Noor Muhammad, he formed the Democratic Kashmir Union, and also became a part of the Voice of Kashmir, a journal they had launched.

He was arrested in 1955 in connection with a blast near the Jamia Masjid in Delhi, severely tortured in police custody for nearly three weeks, and then sent to the District Jail on the city’s Mathura Road.

“I didn’t mind at all the torture I was subjected to because I knew     I own certain political views and had to suffer for them,” Sathu said in the 1997 interview. “But I was not involved in the bomb blast.”

The charges were later withdrawn.

Soon after, Sathu became a special correspondent for the Dawn    published from Karachi, but this too was cut short after barely a year as he was arrested again and detained for his “objectionable” writing.

He also had a stint with The Civil and Military Gazette founded by Rudyard Kipling,  with Winston Churchill on the editorial board.

Sathu then moved to Srinagar and wrote for a weekly, but was without a permanent job.

Somehow, he came across Rawle Knocks of the London Telegraph,  who was impressed by his hard work and dedication.

One day, when covering the Political Conference satyagraha, Rawle informed him about his appointment in the newspaper.

Sathu worked for the Telegraph for over 30 years, and dominated Fleet Street with stories on Siachen.

He was a great admirer of Prem Nath Bazaz, and like him, believed in, and worked for, the creation of an Independent Kashmir.

“No, Bazaz did not persuade Sheikh Abdullah to convert the Muslim Conference into the National Conference. Those who say so were prostrating before their Delhi lords when Bazaz was suffering in a Delhi prison.”

And what did he think of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah?

“He was a person of wavering views. The Delhi Bureau of the New York Times asked the Sheikh about his views on a Kashmir solution. He replied that the cease- fire line should be converted into international border. This, according to him, could solve the problem. But after sometime, while addressing a gathering of Sikhs in Jammu, he asked them to pull out their swords and bring back Pakistan-administered-Kashmir (PaK).”

Sathu passed away on January 26, 2005 at New Delhi after prolonged    illness. He was 83.  A large number of journalists, editors of local newspapers, leaders of various political parties and senior bureaucrats were present at his funeral.

A condolence meeting at the Delhi Press Club on February 7passed a resolution:

“…he brought to journalism a quality of integrity and objectivity, so rare to be seen in the profession today. A valued and highly respected colleague, he stood firm in his convictions and high professional commitments.

“The remarkable thing about Sathu was that he preferred to be a loner. He did not compromise his lifelong commitment to truth. He adhered to this commitment even when in forced exile. Sathu fought many battles and suffered imprisonment for the causes dear to his heart – causes which were not even popular among the members of his own religious community.

“His achievements were not tangible in terms of worldly goods but truthfulness, dogged adherence and commitment (to) radical humanism as also friendship, and the respect he demonstrated to his friends and adversaries alike.”

-concluded

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