Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Role of Roznama Rashtriya Sahara

The growth of the Urdu daily from Sahara group has been astonishing. The paper has also begun to shape public opinion, especially among the Muslim masses of North India.

It is for the first time since independence that an Urdu paper is writing critically against the establishment (either Congress or BJP), raising tough questions & issues like corruption in Muslim organisations, is taking up causes and also asking Muslims to introspect through insightful articles.

It amazes me no end to see the tremendous success of Sahara. The ongoing series of editor Aziz Burney on the conditon of Muslims titled 'Indian Muslims: Past, Present and Future', that is now running into its 50th part and is published as special frontpage editorial has struck a chord with readers. It is not just an emotional outpouring but a reflection of seasoned journalism that pricks, that forces one to think and be self-critical also.
Further, often the paper publishes important stories in devnagari (Hindi) script on the same page and accompanied by English translation, that is also a unique idea. Though rivals, the subsequent birth of quality papers like Hindustan Express (Daily), Aag, Sahafat and others have led to a renaissance of Urdu journalism. The questions that make political leadership uncomfortable are now being asked. Not just politics, there are issues like health, lack of hospitals and dispsensaries, poor roads and other issues that are being raised in all these papers.

Until ten years back the situation was different. People wanted to ask these questions but their leaders kept mum in parliament. Now they are forced to do it. The Urdu papers of Delhi like Milap and Pratap that were owned by families associated with Arya Samaj, targeted the eldery Hindu and Sikh populace that could read the script. By mid-80s, even the generation of Urdu knowing non-Muslims was on the decline.
No business house was willing to finance an Urdu paper, as it was considered a non-profitable venture. The pro-Congress Qaumi Awaz was printed on black and white paper and did command a sizable circulation. But it couldn't write a line critical of Congress.

Around mid-90s, the Urdu press saw another phase of decline. Qaumi Awaz stopped publication from Lucknow. Unlike Hindi papers of other states that do raise issues of Muslims, the papers of UP like Dainik Jagran, Aaj and Amar Ujala were bitterly communal. [When six persons were killed in Ayodhya, these papers had published figures of deaths of Kar Sewaks to 500 and given headlines like 'Ayodhya Khun Se Nahai' ].

No wonder that Muslims felt voiceless. It was felt that Urdu journalism would get confined to Hyderabad and to an extent Mumbai. It was then that Sahara group decided to come up with Urdu weekly and later the Roznama. Today this paper is published from ten locations: Delhi, Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Kanpur, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Patna and with more editions to open soon.

Thanks are due to Subrata Roy Sahara and his group for investing in Urdu. Today this paper is full of advertisements. In a small period, it has achieved a lot and succeeded in getting a circulation that was once considered unthinkable for an Urdu paper in India.