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State of the Urdu Press in India

by Ather Farouqui, 3 May 2009

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This article is concerned with an examination of the state of the art of Urdu journalism in contemporary India. In attempting this analysis my purpose is to address the question whether or not Urdu journalism has played a constructive role in shaping Muslim sensibilities in post-independence India in the sense of enabling the community to face up to the challenge of adjustment as a large minority group in secular India. I shall argue that Urdu journalism during the post-independence period has very largely failed to perform this expected role. For reasons which are partly inherent in the nature and character of the Urdu readership, and which partly arise from the political and economic proclivities of individual Urdu journalists as well as from their linkages to political parties, Urdu journalism has more often than not been prone to reinforce a sectarian and emotional outlook among readers. At any rate, Urdu journalism has often disturbed Muslim
positions on substantial issues of concern to the community and the country at large, ignoring the emerging social realities within the community. Accordingly, this discussion of Urdu journalism in India is set against the changing position of Urdu and the socio-economic changes Muslims in India have experienced during the past sixty years.
It is significant to note that a glance over the journey of Urdu journalism reveals that except a few minor changes in north Indian Urdu journalism (like a few new newspapers appearing on the scene or the emergence of electronic media) the mainstream Urdu journalism has by and large remained static. Their ethos and subject matter has hardly changed. With the settling of the dust of destruction of Babri Masjid, Urdu print-media has come back to square one. There is no sign of change in the mentality of Urdu print-media.

Electronic media has slightly changed its attitude in respect of Urdu linguistic minority but that is a different field of study. However an important fact in this respect is—if the problems associated with Urdu are political, and if Urdu means the language that is identified by its script rather than by speech, then the language used by electronic media, irrespective of its Perso-Arabic lexical terms and words has to be seen differently. Urdu in its spoken form is called either Hindustani or Hindi (the classical examples are Mughal-e Azam and Razia Sultan which are branded and even certified as Hindi Films). Constitutionally speaking, even Hindustani is a form of Hindi along with many other major languages of the north like Braj, Avadhi, Haryanavi, Rajasthani, Magahi and Bhojpuri etc. Earlier Maithili was also included in the canon of Hindi but now it has its independent existence. Hence in its spoken form, Urdu also becomes Hindi and thus even the newly sprouting Urdu TV Channels will automatically become Hindi channels.

This unfair treatment meted out to major and rich languages of north India by illiberal forces have penetrated even the Constitution. For a true democratic state, this needs to be immediately rectified. Under Article 351 of the Constitution, Hindustani is stated as a form or Hindi. But one must not forget that Hindustani was to be declared (in two script—Urdu and Devnagri) as the national language of free India. But before that could happen our country was partitioned into two and Gandhiji assassinated by reactionaries.

As far as the Urdu print media is concerned, a small visible change has occurred in north India because caste politics has fragmented society. As a byproduct an Urdu newspaper, Rashtriya Sahara, has sprouted (from Monthly to Weekly to Daily) in many cities of India. The claims of circulation made by the management are need to be verified and the phenomenon of growth too needs a proper study in perspective. Since I could not do that in this paper for the simple reason that this paper is not a case study of some selective newspapers but it tries to examine broad trends so I did not go further with Sahara story knowing well that this newspaper, with obvious political leanings, has been pandering to the needs of a casteist protagonist cum Muslim populist like Mulayam Singh Yadav in the same way as Urdu weeklies of the north had been fanning fundamentalist tendencies for their petty gains. This is a contemporary example of sectarian political clout. On the other hand, despite tall claims, the Congress failed to address the problems of Muslims, failed to start the process of their social cohesion and economic development. In a worsening situation, it also lost its only link to Urdu knowing Muslim society which is mainly based on women and madrasa graduates, with the degeneration of Daily Qaumi Awaz and ultimately the closing down of its Lucknow edition. Although Urdu knowing people (script-knowing) in UP are very few but post 6 December (1992), the assertion for their Urdu based identity has been fortified.

After Partition, Urdu was seen by average Muslims in India as the language of their cultural identity and religious instruction medium as it has become the sole medium of dini madaris education and for this reason evokes a deep attachment. As far as the aspect of Muslim identity in the name [admixture] of culture and religion is concerned, this was not always the case. Historically, Urdu was the language of the ruling Muslim elite and elite Hindus who came in touch with Muslim rulers. The common masses, and others, communicated in the regional languages without feeling a tension as to whether it was Urdu or Hindi, or some other language.
Urdu suffered a decline after India was partitioned and was threatened by the official support extended to Hindi by the government in free India. The Muslim leadership of post partition India campaigned for Muslims to declare Urdu as their mother tongue and to consider it as a symbol of their cultural identity. Also the political compulsions of the north Indian Muslim elite to consolidate Muslims, who are otherwise internally differentiated, strengthened this campaign. One of the consequences of this development namely the subsidy given to Urdu publications by the government was that it made sure that Urdu journalism would die particularly in north India.
In India the Urdu press, by and large, is a Muslim press although in some southern states a few good Muslim newspapers are being published in regional languages. A large number of representative Muslim weeklies are published from Delhi. But in this assessment I have included only those Urdu newspapers, mainly weeklies and dailies, which have played any role, even if negative, in the lives of India’s Muslims in general.

The concessions granted to Urdu newspapers by the government to appease Muslims are readily exploited by some people, although most of them have no relation with journalism. These people get a registration number for an Urdu paper and publish fifty to hundred copies. However, they falsely claim that they publish greater numbers, to obtain government advertisements and the quota of newsprint. Surprisingly, the office of the Registrar of Newspapers plays a passive role and does not try to find out if the figures submitted to it by the respective newspapers are authentic. Most of the owners of these newspapers (who also happen to be their editors) indulge in blackmailing one or other political party in the name of their newspaper.

Out of the three hundred and forty-seven registered publications, there may be hardly forty to fifty which in fact reach public hands. Most of these publish file-copies only for the government’s record. However, in this assessment I have included only those newspapers which really reach the public, and are published regularly. These papers possess the capability of motivating public opinion.

Without doubt, today the Muslims of south India, particularly Karnataka are recognising Urdu as their language and a symbol of their religious identity in the changed political milieu, even if Urdu was never their language and in the past they were greatly distanced from the Muslims of north India. Culturally, north Indian Muslims always considered themselves different from Muslims in the rest of the country. They were also victims of a pronounced sense of superiority. This cultural distance and the strong sense of superiority on the part of north Indian Muslims became a great hurdle in linking them with south Indian Muslims.

This factor also prevented the movement for Pakistan from reaching south India. Except for a few big cities, migration to Pakistan from the south was limited (Precisely because of the hold of north Indian Muslims over the Muslim League, particularly by the ashraf (gentry) and the middle class, linguistic and cultural conflicts have arisen there even after the formation of Pakistan). The subsequent establishment of Bangladesh and the remarkable rise of the Muhajir Quami Movement (MQM) in the refugee-dominated urban areas of Sindh province are ample proof of this.
Muslim politics in contemporary India is not particularly different from what they were in the past. The hold of north Indian Muslims on Muslim political campaigns even after independence has been strong. This prompted the presumption that the north Indian Muslim leadership would also be successful in the south. However, the defeat of Syed Shahabuddin in Bangalore during the 1989 general elections made the north Indian Muslim leadership acutely aware of its real standing in the south.

Over the recent past Muslims in India has been the centre of two public controversies. The first controversy centred on whether a divorced Muslim woman was entitled to maintenance from her husband under certain provisions of the Criminal Procedure Act, entitling women to claim such maintenance to avert their taking to vagrancy or prostitution, when a husband’s liability towards his wife after divorce ceased under Muslim Personal law. The second controversy concerned the claim of a section of chauvinist Hindus to build a Ram Temple on the site of the Babri Masjid, allegedly built by Mughal emperor Babar after bringing down a temple in the sixteenth century. Muslims waged fierce struggles for the enactment of a law to annul the Supreme Court judgement[1] in the Shah Bano case, and for the protection of the Babri Masjid (which was, eventually, forcefully demolished by fanatical Hindus on 6 December 1992, plunging India into serious Hindu-Muslim strife).

The Muslim leadership’s short-sighted campaign in the Shah Bano case was to change the Supreme Court judgement upholding a Muslim divorcee’s right to maintenance under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, through a legislative enactment[1] enabled the chauvinist Hindu leadership to convince common Hindus that in matters of faith the judgement of the court had no place. Accordingly, when the Supreme Court directed that the structure of the Babri Masjid should not be disturbed, as no available evidence indicated that a temple originally existed on its site, the Hindu leadership started arguing that the ruling of the court had little validity when the people believed that a temple actually existed there. This stand has not changed and has recently been emphasized by the VHP in its Haridwar session.

The style and objectives of the Muslim leadership in the Shah Bano and the Babri Masjid campaigns were ill-conceived, as arguably was Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Muslim League campaign to have a separate homeland for Muslims carved out of the Muslim majority areas of undivided India. It was sheer luck for Indian Muslims that those running the Shah Bano and the Babri Masjid campaigns lacked Jinnah’s mobilising skills.

To be able to appreciate the role of the Urdu press in the lives of Indian Muslims, we need to divide Urdu publications between Urdu weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies on the one hand and Urdu dailies on the other. Urdu weeklies, fortnightlies and monthlies published on a regular basis enjoy the patronage of the Muslim leadership of Delhi in particular, and north India in general, and it is widely known that they receive their funding from the same sources which finance the activities of fundamentalist Muslim leaders. These publications can, therefore, be regarded as truly reflecting the mentality of north Indian Muslims. Nonetheless, among the publications belonging to this category, the number of those published on a regular basis is limited to one or two. Most of them are open advocates or official organs of political parties or ideological organisations. Therefore, their circulation and their area of influence are greatly restricted.

The weeklies published from Delhi command a comparatively larger circle of readers among Muslims. Their role in the formation of Urdu journalistic thinking is substantial and a true reflection of the sentiments of north Indian Muslims and their social situation. Muslim readers in the north are educationally backward. Muslim readers from organisations, which in fact are unconcerned with the real problems facing Muslims, particularly those relating to their educational backwardness and under-representation in public employment or even their general poverty, find the north Indian soil extremely fertile for their campaigns. Therefore, most Delhi-based Urdu weeklies keep giving currency to self-created stereotypes and misconceptions which place severe limits upon their potential for growth.
The sources of such stereotypes and misconceptions are varied. There are some stereotypes and misconceptions which anti-Muslim forces have deliberately given currency to, in an organised fashion. Even so, a good many of the stereotypes and misconceptions have been popularised by Delhi-based Urdu weeklies too. For instance, Urdu publications have all along harped on the discriminatory treatment meted out to Muslims in India, often explaining the social and economic backwardness which characterises this community entirely and exclusively in terms of the failure of the Government to protect Muslim interests or to secure economic advantages for them. One is not suggesting that there is no discrimination against Muslims in contemporary India. What one is suggesting is that discrimination is only a part of the story. Equally a number of internal factors as well as their post-partition psychological orientations can be a factor in the continued backwardness of the community. However, the Urdu press has never even raised the question that there might be other factors which might have contributed to their continued backwardness. Even if proved wrong on subsequent scrutiny, such searching analyses would have broadened Muslim horizons to their predicament in post-independence India and enabled Muslims to come to terms with their existential realities. Unfortunately, Urdu journalism has been content with reiterating the common clichés.

For a while in the 1980s a slight change in Urdu journalism was discernible. At that time some new newspapers started appearing and several of the old publications re-oriented their outlook in order to reflect emerging realities.The National Herald, an organ of the Congress, started its sister publication in Urdu known as Quami Awaz from Delhi. The Quami Awaz set a new trend of healthy journalism in comparison with other Urdu dailies of north India, and despite being an organ of the Congress; it became a necessary reading for enlightened and sober Muslims in some parts of northern India, particularly in western Uttar Pradesh in 1980s. The Nai Duniya which had resumed its publication in 1973 as a weekly newspaper, assumed extraordinary popularity in 1980 when communalism and extremism were at a peak. Another weekly newspaper, Akhbar-e Nau appeared on the scene in the mid 1980s. Akhbar-e Nau indulged in blindly backing Imam Bukhari. During the Muslim Personal Law movement and later on the Babri Masjid movement, it assumed great importance, and by 1990 it was among the leading Urdu weeklies of the country. When Janata Dal came to power, the then Prime Minister VP Singh, on the recommendation of Imam of Jama Masjid of Delhi, Abdullah Bukhari, granted a Rajya Sabha seat to its editor Muhammad Afzal who was consequently elected as the Rajya Sabha MP as Janata Dal candidate. After stepping into the political arena, Muhammad Afzal’s interest in the newspaper, and simultaneously the influence of the paper on the common Muslim, also started fading. During the period of the Babri Masjid movement two more papers, the daily Faisal Jadeed and weekly Hamara Qadam, were launched. The daily Faisal Jadeed was a newspaper without news.[1] It was more a ‘views-paper’ of people who were extremely narrow-minded. Instead of bringing about an awareness among the Muslim masses of the issues involved it worked towards inciting Muslims to fever pitch. It remained very popular during the heyday of the Babri Masjid Movement.

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, which resulted in the virtual collapse of the movement for its protection, Hamara Qadam and Faisal Jadeed almost ceased publication. Nai Duniya, a publication brought out by another member of the Urdu press magnate family which has dominated the Urdu journalistic scene, played a vital role in orienting Muslims towards political aggressiveness in northern India. Akhbar-e Nau’s editorial comment on the eve of the launching of Hamara Qadam gives an idea of the opportunist attitude of this as well as other newspapers, including Nai Duniya. It reads:

In the journalistic brotherhood of Delhi, the name of Siddiqui brothers is worth mentioning. Maulana Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, the founding father of Nai Duniya (weekly), Huma and Huda (monthly digests) had four sons who were publishing separate newspapers and magazines. Nai Duniya is edited by his youngest son Shahid Siddiqui whereas his eldest son Ahmad Mustafa Siddiqui Rahi brings out the magazine Huda. As compared to Nai Duniya, Rahi had brought out a more bulky weekly Humara Qadam …

What is interesting is that the political experience and outlook of Shahid Siddiqui and Ahmad Mustafa Siddiqui are sharply contrasting. Shahid Siddiqui a staunch communist from his very early stages was an atheist whereas Ahmad Mustafa Siddiqui was pro-religion, anti-Communist and a staunch Congressman from the political point of view. However, after the starting of their respective newspapers, the outlook and ideology of both of them has entirely changed.[1]

Elsewhere the editor of Akhbar-e Nau openly conceded the sub-standard level of Urdu journalism. His contention is that Urdu journalism acts as a mouthpiece of the communal Muslim leadership. But he holds the government responsible for these problems. He feels that if communal riots did not occur and if the government took an interest in solving Muslims’ problems, then Urdu newspapers would not be able to misguide and exploit innocent Muslims.[1]

Similar sentiments had been echoed by Masoom Moradabadi when he launched Khabardar Jadid in 1991. Indeed, the Khabardar Jadid was explicitly launched with the objective of rooting out the destructive orientation of Urdu journalism. However after some time he himself drifted towards the same kind of provocative and destructive journalism. His views on Urdu journalism based on his association with the profession over several years are nonetheless pertinent:

The majority of Urdu newspapers wishes to keep their readers buried under grief and pessimism and also wants to keep them mentally retarded so that they may be rendered inactive in practical life. Since independence the majority of Urdu newspapers have done nothing except lamentation. They deliberately search and compile such material which would push Muslims into pessimism and hopelessness. These newspapers have published stories of this tyranny on the community with renewed vigour, but they never care to educate them and tell them that there are ways and means to come out from these circumstances and live a respectable life. These newspapers are sacred that they will educate and adequately guide the readers, that no one will buy their blood-drenched newspapers.[1]
Another tragedy of the Delhi-based Urdu publications is that despite a sea-change having taken place in the political situation of Muslims in India, their orientation remains what it was around the seventies. They openly arouse Muslims to high pitch, almost trying to build mass Muslim hysteria over the Babri Masjid issue, and prompting Muslims to take to militancy during the movement. This orientation was reflected by several newspapers between September to December 1990.[1]

Today their circle of readers comprises the lowly educated and politically ill-informed poor Muslims. Among the stable readership of Urdu journalism and particularly Delhi-based weeklies, one section is of those persons whose political temperament has been shaped by those papers which have, by creating misconceptions about Muslims and about Urdu journalism, rendered the situation extremely complex and perhaps beyond redemption. They carry an image of themselves as a backward, discriminated against and culturally threatened community.

The trouble is that the Delhi-based weeklies and other Urdu papers and magazines have not familiarised themselves with the changing situation of Muslims. Nor have they thought of giving space to the problems of the newly educated and emerging middle class (whose size is nevertheless quite small) among north Indian Muslims. Precisely because of this, journalism continually harps back to the image of Muslims as backward and discriminated against, a perception that is not universal to Indian Muslims in view of distinctive regional variations in the standing of Muslims in different parts of the country, and because it does not reflect issues of concern to the emerging Muslim middle class, it has failed to establish all-India credentials for itself at any time. It is only in situations of extreme emergency, when an issue that seems to threaten Muslim cultural identity comes to the fore that the reach of such papers extends beyond north India.

Since the 1970s a new generation of Urdu journalists has come up in North India. Even so, neither the tenor and temperament of Urdu journalists nor their attitude, which compels them to analyse things from the perspective of the 1970s, has changed. Urdu journalism is entirely indifferent to the importance of the mass media in the changed circumstances and new printing technologies. Among the over-simplified explanations offered by Urdu journalists for the sad state of their affair are the reluctance of average Muslims to buy newspapers and the inability of Urdu newspapers to secure advertisements as readily as English, Hindi and some other regional newspapers does.

Around the early seventies the educated stratum among north Indian Muslims was almost non-existent, and the Muslim middle class had become greatly diminished through migration to Pakistan. Yet at that time a good many Urdu magazines and newspapers were published in large numbers. But today, when the Muslim middle class has expanded, education among south Indian Muslims has become common and the economic situation of even north Indian Muslims has improved, it is surprising that the print orders of Urdu newspapers and magazines have declined substantially, and several such papers and magazines have ceased, or are about to cease, publication. This exactly illustrates the predicament which confronts Urdu journalism today.

Leading Urdu weeklies which today focus on north Indian Muslim problems and politics are no longer relevant outside north India. The pattern of Muslim politics in south India is quite different from that of north India. North Indian Muslim politicians have never thought of undertaking measures to truly improve the lot of their constituents and their empty and meaningless political rhetoric does not echo a sympathetic chord in south India.

After the collapse of the highly emotionally charged Muslim Personal Law and the Babri Masjid issues, the scope for Urdu newspapers to carry on those polemics has virtually ended. Muslim youth is also gradually realising that the solution to the frequent outbreak of communal riots does not really lie in reinforcing a ghetto mentality or promoting the idea that all Muslims constitute a well-knit and unified community, which north Indian Muslim politics has traditionally recommended. It is also beginning to see that Urdu newspapers have been using Muslim youth as fuel to feed the fire of Muslim fears, to see themselves as a well-knit community threatened by conscious efforts to erode their distinctive identity under the patronage of the state, through presentation of extremely emotional analyses of the communal scenario.

Another factor responsible for the decline of influential Urdu newspapers published from Delhi is the eclipse of Urdu in this region. The new generation of Muslims, in some north Indian states, particularly Uttar Pradesh, is hardly conversant with Urdu, as Urdu ceased to be taught as a language in schools except those run by Muslims. Historically, Urdu was culturally refined in Uttar Pradesh and became a popular lingua franca in this region under the patronage of Awadh rulers during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thus, Urdu was learned by Muslims as well as by non-Muslims as a matter of course and facilities for teaching of Urdu existed in all schools. During the Congress Raj in 1937-9 and after independence, the state policy in respect of teaching Urdu was dramatically changed with the Urdu script replaced by the Devanagari. Today the result is those young Muslims who are unable to go beyond primary education, are modestly conversant with Hindi but know no Urdu.

It is the educationally backward Muslims who stayed on after partition in north Indian provinces and who had at least a smattering of Urdu constitutes the regular readership of Urdu newspapers. Indeed, the Urdu newspapers and Muslim politicians evolved their political strategy of reinforcing a ghetto mentality by playing on the sensibilities of this very section of north Indian Muslims. But the reality is that poor and ill-educated Muslims have little choice other than to read regional Hindi newspapers, despite their anti-Muslim, communal biases.

After Partition, such Muslims demonstrated a very emotional attitude towards Urdu. They also lent a degree of support to campaigns for Urdu and whenever necessary they made sacrifices for it. However, because of the short-sighted and self-serving politics of the Muslim leadership, Urdu has become merely a part of their past cultural heritage. Urdu’s decline has rendered the existence of a prestigious Urdu newspaper virtually impossible. Urdu magazines get a larger quota of government sponsored advertisements than some of the regional language magazines, the size and standard of which far exceeds that of Urdu magazines. As the figures in the table below show, Urdu newspapers are the fifth largest recipients of state sponsored advertisements.

As far as advertisements of corporate and private firms are concerned, it stands to reason that they should be reluctant to put advertisements in Urdu magazines whose readers represents the most backward section of Muslims. One is not here talking of Hindu-Muslim differentiation. Even Muslim business firms give very few advertisements to Urdu publications compared with English and Hindi periodicals. It is the middle class that by and large constitutes the consumer class in India and the purpose of advertising is to influence it. If Urdu periodicals do not reach the consumer class, why should any firm give them advertisements?

S. No. Language Total Amount (in Rs.) of govt. sponsored advertisements
1. English 8,82,84,356.00
2. Hindi 6,65,08,844.00
3. Urdu 97,78,363.00
4. Punjabi 60,73,918.00
5. Marathi 1,33,88,180.00
6. Gujarati 80,76,155.00
7. Sindhi 5,18,244.00
8. Assamese 17,68,736.00
9. Bengali 1,16,72,781.00
10. Oriya 34,59,288.00
11. Tamil 66,73,358.00
12. Telugu 28,40,188.00
13. Malayalam 87,49,789.00
14. Kannada 32,46,885.00
15. Sanskrit 27,373.00
16. Nepali 2,88,020.00
17. Mizo 82,570.0
18. Khasi 36,248.00
19. Konkani 34,528.00

Source: Annexure referred to in reply to Rajya Sabha
un-starred Question No. 4305 for reply on 22 December 1992

The state of Urdu journalism is far more favourable in those linguistic regions of India where Muslims are proud of their religious identity and are actively sharing the region’’ cultural ethos. In all such regions the percentage of the population that knows Urdu is much smaller than in north India. Even in those regions where Urdu is not the mother-tongue of Muslims, the situation of Urdu is much better than in north India, and the attitude of Muslims towards Urdu is pragmatic, not emotional. From the organisation of education to other spheres of practical life the position occupied by Urdu has neither become a hurdle to development nor come in conflict with their regional identity.

Let us undertake a brief evaluation of Urdu journalism in the Urdu speaking and non-Urdu speaking linguistic regions. The Congress Party’s Urdu daily, Qaumi Awaz, published from Delhi whose circle of readers until 1995 was extremely wide, includes Muslims of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi. Even the hostile Muslim reaction against the Congress after the demolition of Babri Masjid could not erode the popularity of this daily. The print order of Urdu dailies published from other cities and towns of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi would number not more than a few hundred. As stated, most of these dailies publish only file copies for securing newsprint quotas and other facilities. This number also includes Urdu dailies like Pratap which is owned by a refugee Punjabi establishment, and whose readership by and large comprises that section of Punjabi and Sindhi Hindus and Sikhs who had learnt Urdu as a second language in pre-partition days. They represent the last generation of Urdu-knowing Hindus and Sikhs. The succeeding generation of Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs is unfamiliar with Urdu and Hindus form the hardcore of fanatics. Therefore, the attitude of this group, as well as Hind Samachar (51264), which was the largest circulation in this part of the country, is openly hostile towards Islam and Muslims.

In Bangalore, a city in the Kannada-speaking region, one popular Urdu daily, Salar (11871), is doing well even though the size of the Urdu speaking population of Bangalore is substantially lower than in the main cities of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.The picture is not vastly different in Calcutta. The attachment of Bengali Muslims for their language is proverbial. Throughout the struggle of the Bengali Muslims to carve East Pakistan out as a distinct country the issue of Urdu verses Bengali remained at the core. The protagonists of Pakistan, an eminent Muslim scholar Maulana Syed Sulaiman Nadvi and the Maulvi Abdul Haq, who earned the title of the grand old man of Urdu, argued that Bengali Muslims should not express hostility towards Urdu as the national language of unified Pakistan. They asserted that Urdu contained many Arabic words and is written in the Arabic script, the language of the Quran. The East Bengali Muslims rejected this logic and established Bangladesh with Bengali as the national language. By contrast, two popular Urdu dailies: Azad Hind (15351), Akhbar-e Mashriq (12882) are published in Calcutta.

Urdu is not widely spoken in Maharashtra or Andhra Pradesh. Muslims constitute a relatively small section of both these states. Moreover, education in both states is conducted predominantly in the regional language. Over the years, in a bid to support the campaign of north Indian Muslims to have Urdu declared as the second official language, Muslims of both states have started Urdu schools and claimed Urdu to be their mother tongue. However, Marathi in Maharashtra and Telugu in Andhra Pradesh remain the languages of everyday communications. Even so, three prominent dailies: Inquilab (23531), Urdu Times (19746), and Hindustan (8612) are published in Bombay. Three Urdu dailies: Siyasat (39949), Rehnuma-e Deccan (20982), and Munsif (9390) are published from Hyderabad.

In Bihar where a substantial number of Muslims are concentrated and Urdu is the recognised second official language, the state of Urdu journalism is discouraging. In Patna alone, nearly fifty dailies or weeklies are published, but the real print order in a majority of cases is limited to fewer than a hundred copies.

It is being recognised belatedly that Urdu journalistic establishments in Delhi and other north Indian states will have to change their linguistic policy, in view of the emerging reality that the new generation of north Indian Muslims is unfamiliar with Urdu. It will also be necessary that rather than exclusively focusing on the issues of north Indian Muslims, they will have to give greater space to Muslims in the rest of India, particularly south Indian Muslims. The Hindi weekly Nai Zameen (47901) is largely a response to this emerging reality. It will provide an alternative to the highly communal anti-Muslim local dailies to which the Hindi-knowing Muslim youth are willy-nilly forced to be exposed. Other newspapers that wish to restrict themselves to north India will also have to increasingly publish their Hindi editions like Nai Duniya. As they do so, they will have to shift emotional and provocative issues that have traditionally appealed to Muslims in north India, and accord greater space to serious socio-economic and employment-related issues which educated Muslim youth are increasingly facing in contemporary India.


The system of most of the Urdu newspapers is at least one century old. In today’s modern world one would be at a loss to understand how these newspapers, which are printed so carelessly and frivolously, survive and serve as vehicles of Muslim journalism in India. The office of most of the newspapers consists of one room. In the name of the working staff, there are one or two Urdu DTP operators or calligraphers and one or two sub-editors. The job of the sub-editors is to select the already published stories from various newspapers and mould them according to their own policy and ideology so that they appear provocative and anti-Muslim. Proof-readers and copy-editors have no role in Urdu newspapers in India. Sub-editors are generally not very well educated people. The only quality they have is that they have a working knowledge of Urdu and Hindi. Normally they do not know English, the reason being that they are products of orthodox dini madaris (religious educational institutions). The salary of a sub-editor in most of the cases is a third of an orderly in a national daily. They are usually paid as little as Rs. 2000.

These Urdu newspapers generally have no column for intellectuals or for commissioned articles. Therefore, there is no question of paying an honorarium to writers. Thus, it is the owners of the papers who generally occupy the seat of editor who become wealthy, as their publications, despite being sub-standard, are quite popular among the Muslim masses.
This picture is gradually changing with the slow increase in the size of the Muslim middle class. Educated Muslims who have some familiarity with the English language, and are interested in national problems, are turning to Hindi and English newspapers. English newspapers, unlike Urdu ones, are more beneficial to them personally because they provide information about jobs, and admissions to universities. The management of weekly, India Today, and also some other newspaper houses on several occasions decided to start publication of Urdu versions. However, each time the Urdu editors discouraged them by presenting to them distorted facts about the Urdu readership. They were told that Muslims do not trust the national press and by nature they tend to be ‘anti-establishment’. As a result such proposals have been shelved. However, it is almost certain that if some prominent newspapers or magazine would publish an Urdu version, it would be a sure success because Urdu is a symbol of the culture and identity of the Muslims throughout the country. Until this happens, the prospects remain that Urdu journalism will continue the traditional game of arousing Muslim sentiments through provocative writing, and render them susceptible to the influence of the communal leadership with which a good many Urdu journalists are themselves aligned due to their own ambitions for political prominence and professional clout.