AT SUNDOWN ON A HOT JULY EVENING in Old Delhi, 83-year-old Yunus Jaffery proceeded slowly along Netaji Subhash Marg, a major thoroughfare in the neighborhood of Daryaganj. He peered carefully at passing signboards as pedestrians swirled around, ducking in and out of bustling shops. Suddenly Jaffery stopped, in front of a dilapidated two-storey building with a board reading “Gupta Promoters” hanging on its façade. A rusty lock dangled from the broken door. “This is the office you were looking for,” he said.
It was in this very building, Jaffery told me, at what is now house number 3576, that Dawn, Pakistan’s oldest and most widely read English daily, was founded. Jaffery, a Persian scholar and life-long resident of Delhi, witnessed the heady days of the freedom movement and the trauma of Partition unfold in the city. “You see that other building there,” he said, pointing to another decaying two-storey structure roughly twenty meters away. “This is where Dawn was printed.” That building, he told me, used to house the Latifi Press, which published numerous prominent newspapers and magazines in pre-Independence India.
Dawn was founded in 1941 by Muhammad Ali Jinnah as a mouthpiece of the Muslim League, which he led, to counter pro-Congress coverage in many prominent papers at the time. The newspaper played a vital role in shaping opinions and events in the run-up to Partition, after which it moved to the Pakistani city of Karachi. Sadly, its original office, a crucial site in the history of India and the subcontinent, now stands neglected and almost entirely forgotten. None of the locals I spoke to in Daryaganj knew of the building’s history. Latif Kirmani, the editor of Rashtriya Vishwas, a Hindi political fortnightly published out of the neighbourhood, told me “there were other influential Urdu newspapers published from Daryaganj, but I have never heard about Dawn.” Jaffery is among the very few who still remember the site’s significance.