Jamhoor, Aligarh: Champion of Democratic Values
Dr. Asad Faisal Farooqui
The Constitution of India was enacted on 26th January 1950, after repealing an earlier act known as Government of India Act-1935. This implementation marked the beginning of the democratic form of government in India. To celebrate the declaration of India as a democratic country by the Indian Constitution, an Urdu periodical ‘Jamhoor’ was started from Aligarh, on the same day when the Indian Constitution came into force, i.e., on 26th January 1950. It was published three times in a month, on 6th, 16th, and 26th days of the month. Owned and edited by Mohammad Umar Khan Chattarvi (1924-2003), a well-known literary and pro-Urdu figure from Aligarh who was also the founding Secretary of the Urdu Board Aligarh and Idara-e- Ilm-o-Adab, Aligarh, under which he organised various Urdu literary activities and worked to promote Urdu education. He was a good poet and carried the pseudonym, Samar. In addition, he also holds the posts of Secretary of Anjuman Taraaqi Urdu, Aligarh, and the National Anti-Communal Committee. He also served as the vice-president of the Aligarh Congress Committee. In 1957, in his editorials, he raised his protest against corruption in government circles and vehemently criticised its policies against the people. He questioned many decisions of the government, and in this regard, he exposed many faces. The then government did not endorse his views, and he was soon arrested, and sent to jail. Thereafter, protests started in Aligarh for his release. In 1958, the district court acquitted him honourably. Even after his release, he continued to edit ‘Jamhoor’. He believed that the strength of a democratic system rests on questioning and analysing the government’s work. He passed away on 16th March 2003, at the age of 77.
Every year, on the occasion of Republic Day (26th January), “The Jamhoor” used to publish a special issue ‘Jamhooriat Number’ in which it meticulously examined Indian democracy and identified the real issues of the country, such as corruption in the government sector, educational inequality, poverty, illiteracy, minority issues, and communal problems, and so on. This special number had been continuously published for thirteen years until it ceased its publication, i.e., in 1962. Jamhoor also started publishing a series of special articles on Indian democracy, contributed by Dr. Mohammad Hashim Kidwai, who was then a young assistant professor of political science at AMU. This series has been published continuously for about ten years. In his articles, Hashim Kidwai analysed and explored the political activities related to India over the last year, highlighting the points that would contribute to the weakening of Indian democracy.
On the cover page of the Republic Day special issue of 1951, under the title ‘Heroes of India’s Independence’, photographs of Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Acharya Kirpalani, and Sardar Patel were published. The same issue carried articles of Dr. Parasram, and Mohammad Hashim Kidwai, respectively titled “Position of Minorities in the Republic of India” and “Some Disturbing Thoughts on Democracy”.
‘Jamhoor’ helped the helpless Muslims at every stage of the post-independence period by fostering national unity and integrity and debunking Pakistan’s Propaganda. Through their editorials and columns, ‘Jamhoor’ pulled them out of their inferiority complex and tried to convince them that their future is in India. They are absolutely safe in India, and in any way, they should not fall into Pakistan’s mischievous propaganda. For this purpose, it published the messages, statements, and speeches of national leaders from time to time, so that the atmosphere of peace and tranquilly in the country can be maintained.
‘Jamhoor’ made a unique and indelible mark in the field of journalism. Its editorials, and columns highlighted public concerns and issues in independent India, and helped to find new avenues. These features of ‘Jamhoor’ guaranteed its success and advanced its popularity.
At a critical juncture, during the early years of the post-independence years, when Hindus and Muslims were looking at each other nefariously and suspiciously, there was a lot of prejudice on both sides, this newspaper played a significant role in promoting national unity and a peaceful society. Jamhoor apprised the government of the basic problems of the people, and exhorted both Hindus and Muslims to exercise patience and take steps towards the development of the country.
Many eminent scholars, such as Dr. Hashim Kidwai, Riyazur Rahman Sherwani, Muqtada Khan Sherwani, Waseem Alig, Dr. Ashraf, Haroon Khan Sherwani, Dr. Parasram, Zia Ahmed Badaoni, Abdul Shahid Sherwani, Zaheer Ahmad Siddiqui, Abu Anjum Qamar Sohouri, Aziz Ahmad Siddiqui, etc. immensely contributed to Jamhoor through their writings.
Farooqui, Asad Faisal. Aligarh Ke Sahafat, Educationl Book House, 2016
Jamhoor, Aligarh (1951-1960) preserved in MAL library, AMU.
Idara-e-Ilm-o-Adab, Salana Report, 1959 (Annual Report, Compiled by Mohammad Umar Khan Chattarvi Samar)