Thursday, August 18, 2011

'Read And Buy Urdu Newspaper' campaign succeeds in Delhi: Will you subscribe an Urdu paper now?

Activists selling Urdu paper to policeman Subash Chand
It was heartening to see the recent campaign in Delhi that aimed at popularizing Urdu newspapers and urging readers to buy them.

Almost 1,500-2,000 Urdu newspapers were sold at the spot in a matter of few hours. This is a positive step as it shows activism on part of the Urdu-speaking populace.

Rather than keeping expectations from the governments, it's the job of the speakers of a language to take care of it. That Urdu lovers hit the street is definitely a welcome sign.

Daily Sahafat's Mohammad Anjum reported that the campaign was launched at the gate of Jama Masjid. The organisation members marched to Matia Mahal and adjoining areas for the 'Akhbar Faroshi Tehreek'.

Clearly, the success of this drive shows that there is no lack of readers if the newspapers have quality and content. Activists representing various fields had gathered after reciting 'fatiha' at the grave of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and began approaching traders and citizens, urging them to buy the Urdu newspapers.

The Urdu lovers were asked to support these papers and make it a habit to buy papers rather than borrow it from a neighbour or a shop owner. The activists stressed on the fact that Urdu papers' existence is vital, as they raise issues concerning Muslim population apart from creating awareness among minorities.

International Human Rights Protection Association (IHRPA) head Shameem Ahmad, Head of Department (Urdu) Dayal Singh College Dr Maula Bakhsh, editor Andaleeb daily M Mustaqeem Khan, poet Shoaib Raza Fatmi, Dr MR Qasmi, Sahafat bureau chief Dr Mumtaz Alam Rizvi, journalists representing Akhbar-e-Nau, Hamara Samaj were part of the drive.

Earlier, activists have sold Urdu papers like Azad Hind and Akhbar-e-Mashriq in similar fashion in Muslim pockets in Kolkata in the past. The fact that governments don't give enough attention to either civic issues or other problems that are written about in Urdu papers should be a cause of concern, said speakers.

The participants in the drive urged people to buy Urdu papers so that it sends a clear message to Centre and State governments that the language is alive. The fact is that over the years, Urdu journalism has made fast strides in India, particularly, since late 90s.

After the launch of Roznama Sahara, the multi-edition Sahafat, Aag, new papers in Hyderabad and J&K, Urdu newspapers are now visible though they aren't reaching readers in far-flung colonies and new areas due to lack of proper distribution network.

Now the papers are attractive and also carry kids' and women's sections though there is still lack of adequate cartoon strips. Children are drawn towards papers due to cartoons and editors of the Urdu papers must realise this important aspect.

For years Urdu papers have focused on politics and neglected children. Few papers have daily cartoon strips. They must strike chord with the young generation, particularly, teenagers and kids. Besides, proper attention should be given to on-spot reporting, career guidance, sports and women's issues.

Most Urdu papers are now on the internet and this also shows the change sweeping across Urdu journalism in India. If you are a Urdu speaker, subscribe an Urdu paper. This will be your biggest service to your mother tongue. Will you do that?

[Photo courtesy Urdu daily Sahafat, Delhi]

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Sindhi newspapers gasping for breath in India

Sindhi daily Hindu edited by Harish Varyani

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

I have a copy of 'Hindu', a Sindhi daily in my hands. It's after a long time that I am trying to read a Sindhi newspaper

While its famous English namesake, 'The Hindu' is one of the leading newspapers in the country, this Sindhi newspaper which also has a rich history is facing a tough challenge.

'Hindu' is a multi-edition Sindhi newspaper. It is being published from the pre-partition era and is amongst the few Sindhi papers that have survived in the 21st century.

But, most other Sindhi publications are facing an existential crisis. Sindhi is not taught as third language in schools except in some cities in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharastra.

As Sindhis aren't concentrated in any state unlike speakers of Kannada, Telugu, Punjabi or Tamil, it doesn't enjoy state patronage which other languages get. Quite similar to the problems of Urdu, but circulation of Sindhi papers has seen an unusually sharp decline in recent years.

There are half-a-dozen Sindhi newspapers published from Ahmedabad, Mumbai, Ajmer, the Sindhi-dominated Ulhas Nagar town, Bhopal, and a couple of other towns, there numbers are few. Despite attempts by certain individuals to exhort Sindhi youths to take interest in their mother tongue, the situation hasn't improved.

In the 80s, the movement to write Sindhi in devanagri script had gained momentum. To an extent it was understandable, as Sindhis wanted their language to survive in India. While the spoken language remains alive, the literature has suffered in process. 

Writers rue that the vocabulary is getting lost and a strange 'mixture zabaan' has emerged. In recent years, Sindhi academies, organisations and trusts have tried hard to organise Sindhi mushairas, Kavi Goshthis, Cultural events and pumped money to publish Sindhi books, but the lack of interest shown by young generation has hampered the efforts.

Editorial on political drama in Karnataka
Till early 90s, I often got to see Sindhi newspapers in a few public reading rooms and in Sindhi households. But now you won't get a copy except perhaps at the newspaper office or a Sindhi academy, except in Ulhas Nagar and two-three other pockets where few bookshops keep the papers.

When Sindhi daily, Farz, was a mass circulated daily, I often saw it. As it is quite similar to Urdu, a person who knows the Perso-Arabic script can read Sindhi, though it requires some extra effort and attention.

After the death of the Farz' publisher, Rajesh Udhwani 'Guide', his son--Ravi Anand Udhwani, told me that there were few readers now and it was getting increasingly difficult to bring out the paper.

I am not aware of the situation in Pakistan where Sindhi does seem to flourish due to state-support and concentration of Sindhi speakers in the Sindh province.

However, the situation in India, is really bad and there is little hope of a revival for the Sindhi publications. A few committed persons are still trying to run classes and promote the language. While Sindhis, a community that has a sharp trading acumen, has seen collective success and achieved prosperity, the loss of the language is something that they should ponder upon.

I still have a thick Sindhi dictionary, which was gifted to me by my neighbours when I was a kid. They also tried to teach me the basics of the language. Since then I haven't seen any newspaper or periodical of the language in a Sindhi household though I have umpteen friends of the my community.

An elderly Sindhi friend was livid when he told me about the disinterest of young generation towards learning their 'mother tongue'. It takes centuries for languages to take shape and get popular. And, then to see the decline!