Press Club of India recalls the first journalist executed by the British in 1857

Delivering the first Maulvi Mohammad Baqar Memorial Lecture at the Press Club of India, Prof Syed Asghar Wajahat lamented lack of awareness about ground reporting in 1857

Photo: Twitter @PCITweets
Photo: Twitter @PCITweets
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NH Web Desk

Maulvi Mohammad Baqar was the first journalist who was executed by the then British government for reporting the freedom movement in 1857 in his newspaper, Delhi Urdu Akhbar, pointed out Syed Asghar Wajahat, noted writer, academic and former professor of Hindi at Jamia Millia Islamia University.

He was delivering the first Maulvi Mohammad Baqar Memorial Lecture, hosted by the Press Club of India. September 16 was the 165th martyrdom day of Maulvi Baqar but even journalists are not quite aware of the immense sacrifice, indeed the supreme sacrifice of the Maulvi.

Delhi Urdu Akhbar’s office in the walled city of Delhi had become the nerve-centre of the 1857 struggle for Independence, recalled Shafi Kidwai, who retired from the Indian Council of Historical Research.

Maulvi Baqar had no access to modern technology, not even the telegraph that was available to the English media in those times. Yet, he continued publishing reports on the anti-British upsurge from far-off places like Assam, Bihar and Tamil Nadu.

Maulvi Baqar later shifted to the Red Fort or the Lal Qila where the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar lived. The emperor supported the newspaper which began to be called Akhbar-e-Zafar.

During the Maulvi's trial, the British court pointed out the nexus between the Mughal emperor and the Urdu newspapers in conspiracies against the British government, speakers recalled.

Maulvi Baqar’s Delhi Urdu Akhbar was one of the very few Urdu newspapers published those days and a leading one at that. After he was held guilty of the conspiracy and for instigating the rebellion, Maulvi Baqar was tied to a cannon and blown to smithereens at Delhi Gate, said well-known Urdu journalist Masoom Murabadi, who has authored a book on the contributions of Maulvi Baqar.

Press Club of India president Umakant Lakhera in his address recalled the continuing harassment of journalists and referred to Siddique Kappan, the journalist from Kerala who was arrested by Uttar Pradesh police on October 5, 2020 and has been in jail since then.

Kappan was on his way to Hathras to cover the outrage following the gangrape and murder of a young woman and the cremation of the body by the police in haste. Ten days after the Supreme Court ordered his release on bail, he is still behind bars, the PCI president added.

The present government has made ground reporting and news coverage difficult for journalists, but we need to remember the sacrifice of journalists and draw inspiration from journalists like Maulvi Baqar, said A.U. Asif.

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