KASHMIR’S UNSUNG HEROES: Noor Muhammad

Curbs on public meetings, debates and discussions during Dogra rule and the so-called democratic governments of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, Bakhshi Ghulam Muhammad and others were not able to strangle the political movement in Kashmir. People were sharp enough to come up with alternatives, and saloons, bookshops and other commercial establishments provided enough space for political and literary discourse.

Ghulam Muhammad-Noor Muhammad, Tajiran-e-Kutub, at Maharaj Gunj was one such institution where politicians and literary figures would sit and give vent to their feelings.  Noor Muhammad owned it. People like Hafeez Jalandhari, Ghulam Rasool Mehr and Muhammad Din Fauq are said to have visited the bookstore and discussed matters of importance with the leadership.

Ghulam Ahmad Mahjoor, Abdul Ahad Azad, Fitrat Kashmiri and many others would also frequent the shop where Noor Muhammad had provided space at the back for political discussions.

In his book, Srinagar: My City, My Dreams, noted columnist and author Z G Muhammad makes a mention of his interview with Maulana Masoodi:

“Noor Muhammad was a wise man who encouraged free and frank discussion between political parties inside his shop, and also put in efforts to iron out differences between the state’s two major political parties.”

The shop would receive newspapers from Lahore which were distributed, and discussed inside the shop. Noor Muhammad would also take delivery of Muslim Conference posters published in Lahore.

Active in his own right on the political front, he was one of the party’s (Muslim Conference’s) founding members.

In 1934, he had tried to sort out differences between Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirwaiz Yusuf Shah, and disapproved of changing the name of the Muslim Conference in 1938.

He and his friends are also believed to have launched a new organization after the 1938 episode, an organization that survived till 1947.

According to Z G Muhammad, Syed Ali Geelani had visited the bookshop in 1950 on the advice of his (Geelani’s) mentor, Maulana Masoodi, and it was Noor Muhammad who introduced Geelani to Maulana Maudoodi’s literature.

A meeting place for political activists and literary people alike, the firm has the distinction of publishing 125 books, most of them pertaining to Kashmiri literature.

Noor Muhammad’s political activities have not been well documented, but the courage he had shown since the early 1930s won him widespread acclaim from political and literary quarters.

He had provided space for political discussions even when tuning in to Radio Pakistan was banned

When Noor Muhammad was born in 1904, his father, Ghulam Muhammad, lived at Saraf Kadal, Srinagar. The family later shifted to Pandaan, Nauhatta.

Noor Muhammad passed away in 1964.

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