Zeyaul Haque, a veteran journalist who gave voice to moderate Muslims, dies of COVID-related complications

Published : April 23, 2021 18:24 IST

Zeyaul Haq

On April 23, Friday, 73-year-old journalist Zeyaul Haque was laid to rest in Jadeed Qabrastan in New Delhi. The cemetery has made a special section for COVID victims; Haque too was buried there after a brief funeral prayer. That probably was the only instance when fate doled out a special place to Haque. Otherwise, it was always a case of unremitting hard work for the seasoned journalist who in the course of a distinguished career wore many hats.

Having started his career with the Urdu daily Qaumi Awaz, he wrote in Hindi too. But his forte lay in English. Predictably, his talent caught the eye of The Pioneer’s editor in Lucknow. Later, he worked for The Times of India in the city before coming over to Delhi. It was in Delhi that the main contribution of this native of East Champaran came to the fore. Most journalists come to India’s capital to hobnob with the political bigwigs and align with the main political parties. Not so Haque. He came to Delhi for an entirely different reason. Having worked with The Pioneer, National Herald and The Times of India, he felt the need for the Muslim community to have its own independent newspaper. Those were surcharged times of the Shah Bano and Babri Masjid cases, and the community felt that often its viewpoint was ignored by the media, with only a few attention-seeking maulanas projected as the self-appointed spokespersons of the community. The moderate voices needed to be heard too. It was with this thought process that he joined with veteran civil servant and educationist Saiyid Hamid to work on a publication for the community. As there was a realisation of paucity of funds, they instead decided to bring out a magazine instead. Called Nation and the World, the publication expressed the Muslim sentiment on every issue, be it the Union Budget, the general election, or even the masjid-mandir controversy.

Unlike other Muslim publications like Radiance, Nation and the World neither shied away from coverage of sports, fashion and cinema, nor refrained from using photographs. No other community journal or magazine had done that before Nation and the World. And Haque was the driving force. Extremely well read with the width and depth of knowledge, he was a brilliant writer and a sharp editor. He would have attained better popularity had he written the same pieces for a national daily, but Haque was married to the cause of the community and believed that, however small, the community should carve out its own niche in the world of journalism.

At Nation and the World, he mentored many journalists who went on to work with national dailies for long years. And Haque stayed backstage, never trying to take credit for their success. Such was the man. Later, he worked for The Milli Gazette, another publication engaged in documenting Muslim lives. Interestingly, he had for a time worked for the Russian Embassy, editing many of its publications.

There were two aspects of his life which remained lesser known. One was his fondness for physical fitness. Even at the age of 60, he used to do his dumbbells and all the rigorous fitness routine. He had a trunk of a chest to go with his gentle voice. His handshake could kill! At the same time, he was a pious man, regular with his prayers. Once through with his edition, he would head to a mosque for prayers. Then come back to the world of Kafka and Shakespeare, Frost and Chomsky.