Mahashay Krishna and his son Virendra were one of the few pioneering Urdu editors in Lahore who launched a newspaper called ‘Pratap’ to vocalise the sentiments of the Indian freedom movement among the teeming populace.
The incident of Jalianwala Baug massacre in 1919 on the day of Baisakhi infuriated one and all in Amritsar and everyone in undivided Punjab. There was a book published in those days that carried details about how General Dyer executed the Jalianwala massacre.
The British government ordered to seize the book. The British Governor of Punjab didn’t also show any remorse. This was the trigger point for journalist Mahashay Krishna who started a newspaper in Urdu which was later published in Hindi as well called ‘Pratap’. The paper had a picture of the brave ‘Rana Pratap’ very prominently in their masthead.
As per a Bhaskar article, in 1929 when Indian National Congress held a plenary session in Lahore, Editor Mahashay Krishna went with his son Virendra. The session which was held on the banks of River Ravi was addressed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. It moved the father-son duo to no end. It laid the foundation of this Urdu newspaper’s lasting contribution to the Indian freedom movement. The father-son duo braved many British censorship laws of the day and continued to write pro-independence articles in Urdu and Hindi through their newspaper 'Pratap'.
Editor Virendra, son of Mahashay Krishna, was also jailed during the ‘Bharat Chhodo’ agitation. Virendra or 'Veerji' as he was called in Punjab. came to Jalandhar. The legendary 'Pratap' was again started in Punjab in 1952. Soon, it started selling around 13,000 copies which were quite high compared to the old standards. Veerji didn’t just stop at journalism. Using the reach and spread of the ‘Arya Samaj’, he also opened many educational institutions in the interests of the countryman.
'Pratap', in early 1956, launched ‘Veer Pratap’, a Hindi daily which is also credited for starting the first offset printing machine in Hindi journalism.
Veerji had the signature style of dictating editorials to his sub-editor Acharya Vishwanath while walking in his chambers. There was a time when Veer Pratap’s editorials had a deep impact on the people of Punjab. The third generation of his family now runs the newspaper after his death on December 31, 1993. His son Chandramohan took the reins of the paper. Veerji and Mahashay Krishna have left a rich legacy of independent journalism in Urdu as well as Hindi.
The father-son duo, like many nationalists of the Indian Freedom movement, has immortalised Akbar Allahabadi’s words.
‘Khicho na teero kamaan na talvaar nikalo, Jab top mukabil ho tab Akhbar nikalo’ (Don’t stretch your bow and don’t wield your swords, when the cannons don’t work against the oppressor start a newspaper).
While the world celebrates world press freedom day, the glorious history of many, like this father-son duo, needs to be re-written to inspire Indians again and again.