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Locating Nayi Duniya in the Urdu Press

In the book review "Media and the Stereotyping of Muslims" (EPW, 1 August 2009), Kalpana Sharma tries to locate Ather Farouqui's Muslims and Media Images: News versus Views within her own knowledge about the issues related to the Urdu media. This comment argues that what is problematic about the review is the bracketing of Nayi Duniya, as a serious Urdu publication, with Inquilab and Siyasat.

DISCUSSION

Locating Nayi Duniya in the Urdu Press

Arshad Amanullah

Duniya since childhood, I would like to disagree with Kalpana Sharma on this point. I would like to share here my own views on Nayi Duniya.

Memories of Nayi Duniya

My familiarity with Nayi Duniya, an Urdu

In the book review “Media and the Stereotyping of Muslims” (EPW, 1 August 2009), Kalpana Sharma tries to locate Ather Farouqui’s Muslims and Media Images: News versus Views within her own knowledge about the issues related to the Urdu media. This comment argues that what is problematic about the review is the bracketing of Nayi Duniya, as a serious Urdu publication, with Inquilab and Siyasat.

Arshad Amanullah (arshad.mcrc@gmail.com) is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi.

Economic & Political Weekly

EPW
september 12, 2009

A
ny engagement with the Muslim question, in the context of journalistic practices prevalent in the I ndian media, either print or electronic, in English, Hindi and other regional languages, throws up a range of issues that call for serious scholarly treatment. Ather Farouqui’s edited volume Muslims and M edia Images: News versus Views, not only underlines the complexity of such an intellectual enterprise, but seeks to address some of them as well.

What informs most of the reviews of the volume that have, so far, appeared in different journals and magazines, is the desire of the reviewers to outline a framework for such a comprehensive study. It will be naïve to assume that a survey of these reviews will be helpful in preparing an exhaustive catalogue of the issues concerning the interface of the media with Indian Muslims (with an appreciation of the plurality of both the categories). However, such an exercise, I believe, will enhance the realisation of the poverty of scholarship on the theme and may propel scholars to come forward to fill the gap.

In the review (“Media and the Stereotyping of Muslims”, EPW, 1 August 2009), Kalpana Sharma feels the scarcity of i nformation about the Urdu press in the non-Urdu sphere and finds in Farouqui’s volume “information and insights” that are normally not available to “the students of the media” (p 24). She, thus, tries to contextualise the book in the scholarship present on the theme, which in turn, is also an e ffort to locate the book within her own knowledge about the issues related to the Urdu media.

What is problematic about her review is her bracketing of Nayi Duniya as a serious Urdu publication with Inquilab and Siyasat. As a close observer of the Urdu media and also as an individual who has been c onsuming Urdu newspapers including Nayi

vol xliv no 37

weekly from New Delhi, goes back to my childhood. My father, a diehard supporter of Urdu, used to subscribe several Urdu newspapers and magazines those days. Nayi Duniya (The New World) and Blitz (Urdu) were prominent among them. Even though I had, by that time, embarked upon a stage of life which is described as adolescence, it was not my cup of tea to appreciate the journalistic standards and principles the latter used to adhere to under the editorship of Hassan Syed Kamal. In the early 1990s, the Blitz Urdu ceased its p ublication.

However, Nayi Duniya had no competitor during the early 1990s when Saddam Hussein was embroiled in the first Gulf War. It used to bring us amazing newsstories from the front line and juicy features revolving around the life and works of Saddam Hussein, the macho mujahid. Some of its issues were sold in black also at that time. Its circulation touched a new height in the history of Urdu journalism as its consumption crossed the threshold of 3.5 lakh copies per week. Interestingly enough, some of its issues used to have more pictures than news. They commanded a great deal of admiration and attention from readers. Some of them secured their place in the bedroom or wallet of a number of Muslim youth. I admired its illustrator who had provided us such wonderful photographs of Saddam. The weekly played a critical role in making Saddam an icon, a mard-i-mujahid in real sense of the term. The Friday news stand outside the Sector 4 masjid of Bokaro Steel City never failed to showcase copies of Nayi Duniya during the first Gulf War. Namazis leaving after the Friday prayer, perhaps, deemed it a religious duty to buy a copy of the tabloid. The portrait of the Sher-i-Arab (Lion of the Arabs) on its c over, perhaps did for Nayi Duniya what the pin-up girls’ photographs do for the vernacular and English newspapers in the post-liberalisation India.

DISCUSSION

The role of Nayi Duniya in making the persona of Saddam Hussein an unforgettable part of the Indian Muslims’ popular memory cannot be ignored. Other newspapers like Hamara Qadam, also surfaced during the period but they could not survive the defeat of Saddam in 1991. It was on the ground prepared by Nayi Duniya; Rashtriya Sahara, the Urdu daily, also tried to reap a wonderful harvest during the period which preceded the execution of the former Iraqi president in 2007. A dding a mythological texture to his c haracter, the latter made him the stuff of legend.

Fearless Advocate

It was only in Jamia Salafia, Varanasi that my engagement with Nayi Duniya experienced a low. However, while working on my Fazilah dissertation, I revived my connection with the weekly and came to know about the extraneous contours of its history. Drawing on the information provided by Robin Jeffrey, I noted, in my dissertation that Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, the founder-editor, started it in 1950 as a daily newspaper from New Delhi. It earned a reputation of being a “fearless advocate” of the interests of the north Indian M uslims. It was finally shut down in 1964. His son, Shahid Siddiqui, began his journalistic career with the relaunch of the ceased daily in 1970. His media presentation of the ground realities prevailing in Bangladesh at the moment, met with a disappointing response from the consumers of Urdu newspapers. The economics of the daily succumbed to its unpopularity, forcing the editor to stop its publication in 1972.

Nayi Duniya arose again, like phoenix, from its ashes and resurfaced on the Urdu mediascape in a weekly avatar. This time Shahid Siddiqui started to communicate with the Urdu readership in an idiom which Robin Jeffrey termed “yellow journalism”. Indifferent to the use of the label on the part of media scholars, the weekly Nayi Duniya continued to be a must-have in countless chai ki dukan which Muslim settlements of north India are generally dotted with. It enjoys the privilege of being one of the major sources of information for thousands of its readers about the M uslim reality in India and abroad.

Rudolvi’s Narration

In the course of looking for details for a research paper (included in Ather Farooqui’s volume), I met Parwana Rudolvi, a veteran Urdu journalist, who started his career in 1952. Shahid Siddiqui’s father Abdul W aheed Siddiqui was Parwana Rudolvi’s first employer. When Nayi Duniya, then a daily newspaper, launched its Kanpur e dition, Rudolvi went there to head the Kanpur bureau. In 1955, he switched to Siyasat, Kanpur as it had offered him Rs 25 per month, an honorarium which was much more than what Nayi Duniya used to offer him. Siyasat ceased publication in 1956. He joined Da’wat, the daily newspaper of Jama’at-i-Islami, Hind in 1960. It is still in publication as a biweekly newspaper. He worked for it till 1967, but was not elevated to the status of permanent staff. Rudolvi holds “his position as a nonrukn (member) of the Jama’at” responsible for the same. He joined the Urdu daily Pratap in 1968, Delhi, and worked there till his retirement in 1990.

Rudolvi, recounting his days in Nayi Duniya, shares that even during the years of Abdul Waheed Siddiqui, Nayi Duniya was known for its emotive and sensational content. The former is not happy with his Muslim employers and categorises the work-culture prevailing in Muslim-owned Urdu newspapers as “non-satisfactory”. He accuses them for not paying an honorarium to journalists in time. Conversely, the proprietors of Pratap used to pay him on time. There was also a provision for provident fund, bonus, over-time, etc, which one can never expect in the Muslim-owned Urdu newspapers. Providing a causal explanation, he informs that only two daily newspapers of north India follow the guidelines of the wage commission: Pratap and Qaumi Awaz, both from Delhi. That is why it was only after joining Pratap that he experienced a sort of u pward mobility.

Sensitive and Emotive

In November 2006, while conceptualising the 26 episode chat-show “Ye Gulsitan H amara”, I could not forget the editor of Nayi Duniya. When I contacted Shahid Siddiqui for recording a half an hour discussion, he agreed to participate. While framing the questions for the interview, I could not forget that he was serving as the

september 12, 2009

general secretary of the Samajwadi Party and the assembly elections were round the corner. So I tried to incorporate those a spects also in the open-ended questionnaire which I used to prepare for my anchor to guide the course of the discussion.

As soon as the show started, I found in front of the camera a man who did not sound like the editor of Nayi Duniya: in terms of ideas, of identifying problems confronting the minorities of the country at large, and Muslims especially, and also in the approach to their solutions. They were definitely not put forward in the pages of Nayi Duniya. Was it due to some shift in his intellectual trajectory? Or, was it a compulsion imposed by his identity as the general secretary of the Samajwadi Party?

I waited impatiently for the next issue of Nayi Duniya. When I got it, I recognised it. It had not changed. Nayi Duniya remained as it used to be: old and emotive. A world characterised with rhetoric and sensation was alive there: through selective use of colour, images, stories and words. It reminded me of Jeffrey’s account of the debacle Shahid Siddiqui had faced at the outset of his journalistic career. It is not he who was responsible for the discrepancy between his journalistic and political identities. It was the Muslim masses who compelled him to live in two minds. Does this explanation still hold true? This further leads us to other uncomfortable questions: Is Urdu journalism a passive practice? Are consumers of the Urdu media powerful enough to dictate terms? It presupposes a society which is free of nonconsumer factors/pressure-groups. Does it fall in the realm of possibilities in a country which is governed by a liberaldemocratic set-up? Should one go beyond the dichotomy of the masses and journalists in search of a meaningful explanation for the dilemma which characterises most Urdu newspapers?

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