Today marks the 121st birth anniversary of our National Poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam. Although he is vastly known for his literary works and music, he also had a remarkable journalistic life. Among the numerous newspapers and magazines that he worked for, Nobojug was his stepping-stone to journalism. This year marks the birth centenary of the daily. It is befitting to discuss the poet's journey as a journalist with Nobojug, on his birth anniversary.
On June 28 1919, World War I ended through the Treaty of Versailles. Kazi Nazrul Islam, who was serving at the 49 Bengal Regiment, left Karachi permanently and moved to Calcutta as the regiment disintegrated. Incidentally, at 20, he started staying with revolutionary and the pioneer of the communist movement, Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed, at the Bengal Muslim Literary Society office room. Above all religious practices, Ahmed's way of life and revolved around participating in working class movements. With an aim to promote his political ideologies, he launched the evening daily, Nobojug, in July 1920.
Since Ahmed was well-acquainted with Nazrul's writings, he appointed the poet as the editor of the daily, despite Nazrul's lack of knowledge in journalism. Muhammad Wajed Ali and Abul Kasem Fazlul Huq were also associated with the initiative. Before that, Nazrul's writings were published in Moslem Bharat, Sawgat, Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Patrika and some other newspapers. Nobojug not only offered him a platform to practice journalism, but also brought him closer to political practices, which were reflected in his writings.
The newspaper soon become a popular mouthpiece beyond religious divides, with classy titles and emotionally driven articles by Nazrul. As a quick learner, he effortlessly began to summarise news and use effective titles.
In Bidroho Ronoklanto: Nazrul Jiboni, author, scholar and journalist Ghulam Murshid draws references from Ahmed's writings. He mentions that Nazrul had written, Aji jhorer rate tomar obhisar/poran sokha Faysal hey amar, for a write-up on Faisal I bin Hussein bin Ali al-Hashemi, the sultan of Iraq. Taking hints from songs of Rabindranath Tagore, the comprehension of words and appropriation of subjects gave it a unique character. Shyam rakhi na kul rakhi was another one of Nazrul's many popular titles.
The political events of the Non-Cooperation and Khilafat movements were in full swing. Nazrul's article, Muhajirin hatyar janya dayi ke? (Who is responsible for killing the refugees?), published in Nobojug during that time resulted in the forfeiture of the security deposit of a thousand taka on the newspaper. In addition, a police watch was placed on Nazrul. These events in succession solidified the political and journalistic ideologies of the poet.
Alongside writing about the socio-political aspects of national and international developments, Nazrul also attended political meetings with Ahmed. At the same time, he participated in cultural activities, going to social gatherings and performing songs.
Ahmed and Nazrul began working together again once Nobojug restarted in October 1920. However, within two months, Nazrul resigned from the newspaper and eventually, so did the comrade. As a result, Nobojug was shut down effectively.
The following year, the newspaper began its activities again, with the help of Abul Kasem. Nazrul wrote for Nobojug at the time. However, this time, it neither gained popularity nor ran for a long time, due to poor management.
Nazrul quit his job at Nobojug yet again, but his literary works continued. He attained attention from the Bengali literary society after writing the poems, Pralayollas, Agamani, Kheya-parer Tarani, Shat-il-Arab, Vidrohi and Kamal Pasha, which proved to be turning points in Bangla poetry.
Nonetheless, Nazrul realised that his heart laid in journalism, as it was the most effective way to communicate with the masses. In 1922, Nazrul published the bi-weekly magazine, Dhumketu. In the Puja Issue of Dhumketu, published on September 22 1922, Nazrul wrote the anti-British political poem, Anandamoyeer Agamane. He was arrested by the police of the Bengal Presidency on charges of sedition for his statements in the poem. Dhumketu was inevitably shut down, due to lack of circulation by 1923.
Abul Kasem Fazlul Haque resumed Nobojug with Nazrul's help in 1941, twenty-one years after its first launch. This time, it was published as a morning daily. For its first editorial, Nazrul wrote a poem.
The exact duration of Nobojug's operations is unknown to this day. However, it remains the only newspaper that saw the beginning and the end of Kazi Nazrul Islam's active journalistic career.