Mainstream, VOL LIII No 29 New Delhi July 11, 2015
Jagjit Singh Anand—Symbol of Progressive Journalism in Punjab
Saturday 11 July 2015, by
On June 2, 2013, Jagjit Singh Anand completed 50 years as the editor of the Punjabi daily Nawan Zamana, published from Jalandhar. Perhaps few have achieved this feat. Two years later, on June 19, 2015, Anand passed away as the editor of the publication at the age of 93 years plus.
Anand was born on December 28, 1921 in a well-known family of that time in district Amritsar. His father, Headmaster Mehtab Singh, was a well-known Sikh scholar. His elder brother, Pritam Singh Safeer, was a well-known Punjabi poet and retired judge of the Delhi High Court, who predeceased him. Anand’s sister was married to the first Professor of Punjabi at Panjab University, Chandigarh, Dr Surinder Singh Kohli.
Anand went to Lahore for higher education, where his active political-social life began. He joined the All India Students Federation (AISF), the student front of the Communist Party of India. Seeing his interest in journalism, the party involved him in its pre-independence Urdu weekly journal, Jang-e-Azadi. After partition, the CPI brought out its Urdu weekly Naya Zamana from Jalandhar in 1952 and Anand was associated with its editing team. Gurbux Singh Preetlari and Tikaram Sukhan were its celebrated editors at that time. The CPI converted Naya Zamana into the Punjabi daily, Nawan Zamana, as Urdu was losing its readership after partition. Arjan Singh Gadgaj and Surjan Zirvi remained its editors. Jagjit Singh Anand became its editor in June 1963 and continued till his last day.
After the Communist Party of India split in 1964, Harkishan Singh Surjit and Jagjit Singh Lyallpuri went with the Communist Party of India-Marxist, whereas Avtar Singh Malhotra, Satya Pal Dang and Jagjit Singh Anand remained with the CPI. Nawan Zamana remained as the CPI daily, though later its ownership was transferred to the Arjan Singh Gadgaj Trust. The CPI-M tried with its weeklies and now is bringing out Desh Sewak, a Punjabi daily from Chandigarh.
Though Nawan Zamana remained broadly a CPI daily, it was liberal in offering its platform to almost every stream of Left and progressive thought. As many factions of the CPI-ML did not have any daily of their own, Nawan Zamana kept on publishing their views occasionally. In the last few years, though it has been losing readership, its Sunday magazine (Aitvarta) has become quite popular among Punjabis settled abroad in the UK, USA, Canada and Australia, as well as among the Punjabi literary circles in India.
Jagjit Singh Anand became the member of the Rajya Sabha from 1974 to 1980, during the CPI’s warm relationship with the Congress party. Anand was one of the CPI’s vocal and enlightened voices in the Indian Parliament and raised many pertinent issues of Punjab. During the Khalistani movement in Punjab, Nawan Zamana was a stringent critic of this movement and Anand faced death threats as well and was provided security. He did not deter from his stand and Nawan Zamana was the fearless voice of Leftists and rationality in that decade.
Apart from his journalism and political career, Jagjit Singh Anand was a prominent literary figure of Punjab. He enriched the Punjabi language and literature through his original writings as well as translations. His Punjabi translation of Vanda Vasilueska’s classic Russian novel Rainbow as Satrangi Peengh has been most popular among Punjabi readers. He translated Rajni Palme Dutt’s classic book India Today in Punjabi, Murasaki’s classic Japanese novel Genji’s Story for the Sahitya Akademi. He translated Fuchik’s Czeck classic Notes from on Gallows and many more books. The Punjab Government conferred on him the Shiromani Award in 1973 for his writings and journalism. His original writings in Punjabi include his literary autobiography published by Punjabi University, Patiala, memoirs like Sujh da Safar,Chete di Changer chon,Communist lehar de ang sang,Cheta chog chuge etc. Through his translations, he set the standards of making translation look like the original so that Punjabi readers could enjoy it in the flavour of their own language. He never used obscure words and always made the Punjabi language a treat for the mind.
Anand’s wife, Urmila Anand, daughter of Gurbux Singh Preetlari, predeceased him. He was bedridden for a few years and suffered from loss of memory. He was admitted to the hospital a few days before his passing away. He leaves behind Sukirat and Suangna, his son and daughter. His death was mourned in Pakistani literary and civil society circles also. He will be remembered for his contribution to the Punjabi language, literature and culture, to make it more rational and humanist.
A memorial meeting for Jagjit Singh Anand was held at Desh Bhagat Yadgar Hall, Jalandhar on Sunday (July 5).
Chaman Lal is a retired Professor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was also a subeditor of Jansatta, the Hindi sister daily of The Indian Express.