Post-script: Tanvir-ul-Ahad, The Unsung Hero of Kashmir Journalism

When a boy-next door from Kupwara arrived to cut his journalism teeth in Srinagar, he didn’t take much time to emerge as the Samaritan scribe whose stories reflected truth of times and brought smiles on the strife-battered faces of people. As the young man breathed his last on Monday, his former colleague recalls his unassertive legend in Kashmir journalism.

ON a cold afternoon of December 2008, I bumped into a young, clean-shaven boy in his early twenties. He was jotting down notes on a piece of scrambled paper while talking to someone over phone. It was my first day of a new job after my previous newsroom became a shut shop.

Once he finished his phone call, he greeted me with Salam and smile. “I’m Tanvir-ul-Ahad, a reporter here,” he curtly introduced himself.

The next four years I spent with him at the office were fun filled, exciting and nerve cracking. Tanvir was our mid-day meal planner and would never keep us hungry.

I remember how he would pool money from my friends and colleagues, Omar Sultan, Marouf Ahmad and Hamid Ashraf, to buy either a chicken or a biryani for all of us at the office. He made even the boring days exciting with his wit and humour. At times, he made me burst with laughter by saying, “I love you, sir!”

During these 12 years, I’ve known Tanvir as a versatile, bold and fearless reporter. One who had guts to report daring stories, someone who would take the people in the corridors of power head-on.

He created a niche in Kashmir journalism with his hard hitting stories. Global News Agency or GNS founded by Tanvir was among the most reliable, authentic and quick news wire to come up in the Valley.

He was a calm person and had a passion for reporting. The curious scribe loved taking challenges. And on many occasions, he put himself in difficult situations.

It will take me days and weeks to write about the courage of this man, who has left a scar on my heart and mind with his untimely death. However, I must narrate a few instances for those who don’t know him personally.

A year after he started GNS, Tanvir carried a series of stories on a two-week face-off between militants and army in Shala Batu area of Keran Sector in September-October 2013.

In one of his stories, Tanvir wrote about a few posts being captured by the militants. However, this didn’t go well with the security establishment. He was summoned by intelligence agencies in Srinagar and grilled for hours about the sources. While Tanvir stood by his story, he didn’t reveal his sources.

Army had claimed to have killed “eight infiltrators” during the two-week stand-off, which many media houses in New Delhi had termed as another Kargil intrusion.

Tanvir always put his heart and mind in stories. He had a nose for news and was extremely focused on the critical details required for a news story. His reporting skills were unmatched. He always went a step ahead in filing stories that really mattered to common people. Money and fame never bothered him.

He would have had hundreds if not thousands of bylines for the exclusive stories he did during his career as a journalist spanning over 15 years. He was a selfless soul. He carried on with his work with sincerity, honesty and dedication till his last breath.

In December 2015, Saudi Arabian intelligence agencies arrested my neighbour, who was working as a driver in Riyadh. When Tanvir came to know about it, he rang up everyone in the state and outside to seek truth. He also made ISD calls to the Kashmiri boy’s employer, the Indian and Saudi embassies to know the charges against the boy. He followed this story vigorously until the boy was released in 2016.

I never saw him as happy as he was when the boy finally reached home. Tanvir was a kind-hearted person and believed only in spreading smiles and love. He never compromised his integrity. He sided with the truth even when he had to face a brunt for reporting facts. For me, he will always remain an unsung hero of Kashmir journalism.

Apart from being an exceptionally good reporter, Tanvir was a noble soul, a friend who would risk everything to take you out of any messy situation. For me, he was a quick fix of everything. I can’t remember a single instance when I asked Tanvir to help and he didn’t. He was always at the forefront whenever I or any of our friends faced any difficulty in life.

Only on last Tuesday, he shared a story idea with me. He insisted I do it because he knew I had done such stories in the past. I promised him that we both will go for the story once the pandemic ends. But alas, he didn’t keep his promise.

On the night of Monday, May 11, Tanvir passed away leaving his family, friends and acquaintances in shock. As a friend, however, I let him down.

I didn’t attend his marriage, nor his funeral.

But as fate would have it, before lockdown, I borrowed Tanvir’s laptop since mine was not working fine.

Never in my wild dreams had I thought that someday, I will use his laptop for writing his own obituary.

Rest in peace, friend!

  • Izhar Nazir Ali is News Editor at Kashmir Observer

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