Moulvi Muhammad Baqir: The journalist who made the pen his sword

Baqir played a crucial role in encouraging people to come together for the 1857 Rebellion against the British and was martyred


While it is false that journalist Moulvi Muhammad Baqir was tied to the mouth of a cannon on September 16, 1857, it is true that he was the first journalist to be martyred in India’s independence struggle.

On paper, Baqir was arrested two days before his death for revolting. However, historians talk about how Baqir was a vocal freedom fighter who used his Urdu newspaper Delhi Urdu Akhbar to encourage a nationalist movement.

The weekly newspaper started in between 1836-37 after Baqir quit his job in the British administration. Through the publication, Baqir worked to contribute to the Indian Rebellion of 1857. He encouraged public opinion to speak against colonial repression. Since Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar led the revolution at the time, Baqir renamed his newspaper to ‘Akhbar Uz Zafar’ on July 12, 1857 to show his support.

He also published on Sundays instead of Saturdays as his own rebellion against the British, who observed sabbath on Sundays. The newspaper survived for nearly 21 years and has become popular as significant literature for Urdu journalism. Baqir’s work instigated a political awakening in public. Yet at the same time, his writing also called for a unity between Hindus and Muslims.

He printed articles appealing to both sides to come together to decry colonial rule. To make this a reality, Baqir had already made efforts since 1843, building an Imambara in Delhi near Kashmiri Gate. The place was a common gathering location for Shia Muslims, Sunnis and Hindus alike to commemorate the battle of Karbala.

However, he forbade the practice of Tabarra that demanded dissociation from those who opposed God. According to reports, his actions angered Shia cleric Molana Jafar of Jarja, who, in vain, complained to authorities against this rule.

Baqir’s writings created a ripple effect. People were slowly encouraged to voice themselves against the British Raj. He continuously wrote articles denouncing colonial rule and called on people and Sepoys to fight for freedom. Such was his influence that Baqir did not even receive a trial  before being shot by Major William S.R. Hudson. Nonetheless, for his work and contributions, he remains immortalised in Russian artist Vasily Vereshchagin ‘Suppression of the Indian Revolt by the English’ painting portraying the woes of freedom fighters.

Even today, his contributions are honoured by many people.



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