RANBIR J&K’s First Newspaper – Latest Jammu and Kashmir News | Tourism

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Rachna Vinod
June 24, 1924 became an important memorable day in the history of Jammu and Kashmir when the first regular issue of a weekly Urdu newspaper, “Ranbir” meaning “the knight of the battlefield”, appeared , laying the foundations of Journalism in Jammu and Kashmir by Lala Mulk Raj Saraf who later became rightly known as the Father of Journalism in Jammu and Kashmir. It takes a lot of determination for any great visionary for a better future for generations to come, to face the challenges of the present.
Impressed and inspired by the powerful personality of Lala Lajpat Rai, the Lion of Punjab and working with him in his famous daily newspaper Vande Matram, young Lala Mulk Raj Saraf was repeatedly reminded of the powerlessness of the people in his own state . Jammu and Kashmir where, despite being so vast, there was not even a single newspaper. After many discussions with his friends and elders about his ambition to start a newspaper, a request was finally made to His Highness Maharaja Pratap Singh for permission to start a weekly newspaper and set up a printing press in Jammu for this purpose, Chet 9. Samvat 1977 corresponding to March 22, 1921 was made. Under the press law in force in the state at the time, only the sovereign, and no other authority, could grant a such authorization. When his application was filed before Maharaja Pratap Singh, he was personally very pleased and in his own hand remarked on the application, “Since the time of my ancestors there has been no newspaper in the state . My Chief Minister Dewan Sahib, who is also my trusted adviser, should advise me on what to do or what not to do in this matter. Amid mixed advice for and against the launch of the newspaper, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf was told that the Durbar did not see fit to consider the application to launch a weekly newspaper in Jammu. Undeterred, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf kept her spirits up and spoke out publicly against the order and blasted it in the national press. On 20 Baisakh, Samvat 1978 (May 21, 1921), another request was made and a response was given on July 5, 1921, “His Highness Maharaja Sahib Bahadur has ordered the start of a newspaper in the state cannot to be allowed.” Keeping spirits high, on Baisakh 1, Samvat 1979 (April 13, 1922), an application was submitted for the third time. However, the third request also met the same fate informing that His Highness Maharaja Sahib Bahadur was not inclined to grant the required permission.
Fortunately, it was Maharaja Pratap Singh’s sincere desire to see a newspaper published in the state like those published in Punjab. Then Raja Hari Singh, the Chief and Foreign Minister, also did not object and Mr. Nagarkatti, an enlightened and liberal gentleman, Minister of Trade and Industry, holding the Printing Department under him, also gave his opinion in his favour. The fourth request made on March 21, 1923 proved to be the last and the Maharaja affixed his royal seal to the acceptance of the request after it was unanimously approved by the Council on March 18, 1924. Finally, a letter dated March 28, 1924 from Mr. Nagarkatti, permission to launch the newspaper in the state was issued. It read: “Referring to your letter A/1748 dated January 31, 1924, I have the honor to inform you that His Highness Maharaja Sahib Bahadur in Council has been pleased to grant permission under the Article 5 of the Jammu and Kashmir Press and Publications Regulations 1971 Bikrmi requesting you to kindly take necessary action in the matter in accordance with the provisions of the Jammu and Kashmir Press and Publications Regulations 1971.” However, it did not mention anything about the printing press. Approaching again, the very next day, another letter advising “…permission which has already been conveyed to you also involves starting a press.” Subsequently, the Council of State, at its meeting in Srinagar on June 5, 1924, confirmed this response from the Minister of Commerce and Industry. So, after all, after going through various stages spread over a period of more than three years, permission to launch the first newspaper in the state of Jammu and Kashmir was obtained.
At first, the newspaper was to be called “Pahari” and the press “Dogra Press”, but upon closer examination, the newspaper was called “Ranbir” and the press was called “Public Printing Press”. The title of the diary coincided with the name of the late Maharaja Ranbir Singh, son of Maharaja Gulab Singh, founder of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and father of the good and generous Maharaja Pratap Singh. But in reality, “Ranbir” was “Ranvir” literally meaning “Knight of the battlefield” which, true to its name, overcoming all obstacles, debuted as the first newspaper in Jammu and Kashmir on June 24 1924.
In British India, Mahatma Gandhi, as part of his civil disobedience movement, launched the historic march to Dandi to break the Salt Law on March 12, 1930. This created a great stir across the country which led to his arrest which resulted in spontaneous hartals and processions all over the country including Jammu. All these events, the unprecedented hartal and the biggest protest in the history of Jammu were reported in “Ranbir” resulting in its publication being banned. Intrepid journalist Lala Mulk Raj Saraf started another newspaper “Amar” in Lahore, then another “Mashir” until Ranbir was allowed to reappear after more than 18 months on November 13, 1931. It was December 1 1946, the Ranbir was allowed to appear as a daily. 1946 was also the centenary year of the Treaty of Amritsar between the British India East Company and Maharaja Gulab Singh. The treaty laid the foundation for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The Ranbir published a voluminous special issue titled “Jammu and Kashmir Encyclopaedia” which has been recognized as a document of great historical significance. Lala Mulk Raj Saraf published the first monthly magazine “Rattan” for children in December 1934. Soon it was considered one of the three best-edited magazines in the country.
The torchbearers of journalism today are grateful to the “father of journalism” in Jammu and Kashmir, Lala Mulk Raj Saraf, a great visionary whose unwavering passion for a free press and firm belief in the freedom of expression have taken the media to new horizons. in Jammu and Kashmir.
(The author is a trustee of JDGD Saraf Trust co-founded by Lala Mulk Raj Saraf and Om Prakash Saraf.)

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