As a fearless editor of the popular Urdu daily of yesteryears, Ghulam Nabi Shaida breathed his last on Tuesday morning after battling an unsound health for a long time. Breaking the news of his demise, veteran Kashmiri journalist Yusuf Jameel termed the falling legend of ‘Wadi Ki Awaz’ as “an upright professional”.
By Mir Faizan
BACK in the day when Kashmir was witnessing a tumultuous political campaign, Minister of State (MoS) Information, Bashir Ahmad Nengroo once sought a pressing audience of Kashmiri journalists for some quick briefing.
When the word reached an unbending editor—whose rise from Pulwama’s obscure political circles to a popular penman position in Srinagar’s Press Colony made him a cult—he famously sent a terse reply for the minister: “Who’re you to dictate terms to Press?”
“Ghulam Nabi Shaida of Wadi Ki Awaz even refused to acknowledge Nengroo as MoS Information during his active editing career,” recalls Tahir Mohiuddin, editor of Chatan.
“He would later fight the pitched battles with the Information Department in the High Court over some ban. The bold editor loved to take the system head-on.”
Back then, Shaida’s paper was seen as anti-establishment and had its own niche readership in Kashmir.
“In times of Aftab and Alsafa, it was Waki Ki Awaz which used to drive the early-morning eager crowd towards the news stalls in Srinagar, especially in Downtown,” says Wasim Sofi, an ardent newspaper reader and Shaida’s acquaintance.
“Then, Wadi Ki Awaz was immensely popular, with a widespread readership.”
Much of this popularity had to do with the late editor’s ‘pro-people’ stand.
“Late Shaida Sahab was a courageous character of Kashmir journalism,” Mohiuddin says. “He was an exceptional editor, who refused to publish J&K Bank’s advertisement in his paper on the grounds of usury.”
But before becoming a heroic newspaperman who spoke truth to the power, the Pulwama native had tried his luck in politics.
“He mostly fought elections as an independent candidate,” says Manzoor Anjum, editor Uqab and Shaida’s former colleague. “But at the same time, he was gifted with pen and eloquence.”
Soon, Manzoor says, Shaida launched his Wadi Ki Awaz and became the promoter and owner of the popular newspaper.
“He even faced jail for reproducing a controversial article in his paper once, apart from regularly publishing the pro-Kashmir content,” the editor of Uqab says. “He served truth till the last breath of his life.”
In his heydays, the former editor would be celebrated for understanding the pulse of the changing times and the larger public mood, says Jeelani Qadri, a senior editor in Srinagar.
“He was a rebel newsman who called spade a spade,” Qadri says. “Undoubtedly, editor of Wadi Ki Awaz was a people’s editor.”
But the same man saw his passion and profession drifting into wilderness after his wife started struggling with a critical disease.
“If that wasn’t enough shock for him,” says his former staff member, “Shaida Sahab landed in a long legal battle with a rightwing paper published from Delhi—which had dubbed Wadi Ki Awaz as a ‘militant’ mouthpiece.”
Although his wife’s painful loss took a great toll on him, the editor kept fighting the defamation case against the publication in the court.
“He was a sober and modest man,” his former staffer recalls. “He was one of the first editors to come out with both English and Urdu pages in his daily.
“If only he hadn’t faced those twin tragedies [wife’s demise and a legal battle], he would have been the king of journalism in Kashmir today.”
The same reverence found resonance in the condolence message of Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) on Tuesday.
Terming him as a fearless and an unbiased journalist, KEG said, “Ghulam Nabi Shaida will always be remembered for upholding the values and ethics of Journalism amid the challenging situation … The death of the veteran editor is a huge loss for the institution of Journalism in Jammu and Kashmir.”
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