Thursday, November 25, 2021

Circulation of Urdu newspapers in India in the decade after Independence

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

The Urdu press has a nationwide presence and it was naturally strong in the pre-partition era.

Even after partition, Urdu newspapers had strong impact in parts of the country.

Especially, in national capital, Delhi and Punjab. 

The centres remain the same, even six or seven decades later. Delhi, Lucknow, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata, Patna, Bhopal and Bangalore. However, contrary to general feeling the circulation of newspapers in the post-independence era was high, the figures were not too impressive.

Pratap, Tej and Milap were major papers in Delhi. Post-partition, the Hindu and Sikh populace that continued to read Urdu, preferred these papers. In 1959, Siyasat Jadeed Kanpur was quite a big paper and had higher circulation that Siasat, Hyderabad.

Among major dailies, Mumbai had Inquilab, Lucknow had Qaumi Awaz, Calcutta had Asr-e-Jadid and Azad Hind apart from Rozana Hind. Jalandhar had Hind Samachar, Hyderabad had Rahnuma-e-Deccan apart from Siasat and others. 

In Bhopal, Nadeem's circulation was less but again circulation is not a criterion, it had impact. Just like, Times of India and Hindustan Times sell 20-25 times or even more than Indian Express in Delhi, but Express probably still has more impact.

The belief is that it was a golden era of some sorts, as people always look towards past, with love and longing. However, printing newspapers was not easy and litho was the system, before the advent of modern technology. The circulation figures are from the annual report of the Registrar of Newspapers in India (RNI).


Sunday, November 21, 2021

Cow protection group's bid to storm parliament 55 years ago: Yet no right-wing outfit was banned or perceived as threat to nation

Shams Ur Rehman Alavi

It was in the month of November, 55 years ago, when a shocking incident had occurred in India's national capital. 

The year was 1966. A big gathering in support of cow protection took place in Delhi.

The protesters who gathered near the Parliament, turned violent. The situation went out of hand. 

Ministers' houses were attacked & burnt. The policemen later resorted to firing. As per reports, 7* persons were killed, while nearly 200 were injured. 

Papers carried the reports on front page, bold top lead stories. But they were not harsh, quite soft. They termed them 'unruly demonstrators'. The words were not 'attackers' on 'temple of democracy' but words used were 'paraders' and 'demonstrators'.

Though it was an attack at the seat of the government. Gulzarilal Nanda was Home Minister. It was claimed after Swami Rameshwaranand had exhorted audience to prevent ministers from coming out of parliament, that situation deteriorated.

K Kamraj's house was targeted. Also, minister of state Raghuramaiah's bungalow was attacked and set afire. So many trucks, buses and vehicles were damaged and set afire. The leaders of these 'demonstrators' had openly announced that they won't let ministers come out of the parliament. 

The scale of violence was unprecedented. Centre, the government and the Delhi administration was 'taken aback'. Lieutenant General AN Jha had expressed 'complete surprise', also 'intel had no info! On November 8, despite Opposition push, Centre said no to judicial probe demand and house was adjourned. 

Army was alerted just in case need arose, though it was police that handled the situation and remained on the scene. Hundreds of Sadhus were arrested within 24 hours. Swami Karpatri Maharaj was also among those taken in custody. 

The figure of arrested persons crossed 1,400 later. Those arrested belonged to Jan Sangh, Arya Samaj, Sadhu Sabha and Sanatan Dharma Samaj. Then, on November 9, Gulzarilal Nanda resigned as home minister. 

YB Chavan became the home minister in the next few days. But were the 'major disturbances in Delhi' seen as a national security issue or threat to country, causing worries about future? In fact, the policy continued, that right-wing can never be perceived as security threat, even its fanatic wings. 

Turning Right-wing: Softness towards right-wing, the reasons for the shift

The point is that any minor stir or a statement of a leader in a far-flung part of the country, leads to so much brouhaha, immediate concerns and casual use of words like 'traitor'. But even an incident of this magnitude--almost an attack at the seat of democracy, hadn't shaken the government enough. 

And as we know, later also, no serious action was taken. No right-wing outfit was banned despite such an incident. Subsequent governments too remains comparatively soft towards the right-wing. On the other hand, a year later, the unlawful activities (prevention) act--UAPA came, in 1967. 

It has resulted in thousands of arrests and curtails the rights of citizens, denies them the right to bail.The softness towards right-wingers continued. Two decades later, VHP and BD had become big strong groups with all India presence, lakhs of volunteers and so by 1980s groundwork was complete. Congress got another decade later--from 2004 to 2014, and then after all the work, handed over, completely.

The threat was not dealt with, sternly. Hence, right-wing groups were emboldened and emerged stronger. By 1980s, there was a fresh resurgence. And every time the approach was similar, soft. Jan Sangh that turned into BJP, used VHP and Bajrang Dal cadre during the Rath Yatra.

There was violence in dozens of towns in the country, yet, no action was taken. A few years later, in 1992, Babri Masjid was demolished. This, despite chief minister's pledge that he won't let anyone harm the structure.

If this was not enough, those involved in the demolition, those who gave inflammatory slogans and made the speeches, incited the mobs, were never made to pay for their acts. The cases dragged for years and none of the conspirators were jailed. 

The failure was on all fronts, not just administrative and political, but on all fronts. When executive fails, people look at courts. However, Kalyan Singh was given just ONE day symbolic imprisonment! No wonder, the message went that right-wing ideology is part of nationalism. 

The post-Godhra pogrom in Gujarat occurred in the year 2002. Many culprits involved in violence managed to get bail despite getting convicted. Over the years, Hindutva became synonymous with Hinduism and Nationalism. 

Many groups were found involved in planning and executing attacks eg Malegaon, Ajmer, Mecca Masjid at Hyderabad and Bhopal Ijtima apart from similar plots at Jalna, Nanded, Modasa, Purna, Thane and Goa but, none of those groups was put on the list of banned outfits.

Even when Congress was at the Centre, it didn't do it. The State government in Maharashtra too belonged to the same party, yet, they couldn't do it. And, later leaders would pass the buck, claiming that they didn't get the file!

The shift to right-wing was complete. This happened because every important pillar that needed to stay strong, crumbled. Not just the bureaucracy and the political class, but this was facilitated by the the Fourth Estate--the role of press and media, particularly, vernacular newspapers in North India, in taking side and changing public opinion.

Now, coming back to November 7, 1966. The incident didn't lead to serious action against right-wing groups. Rather, cow protection laws came up in different states. Over the years, these laws were made more and more stringent, and Muslim youths faced charges, getting framed and prosecuted even over rumours of cow slaughter, mere claim over possession of beef or transportation of objectionable meat.

The attacks, lynching bids and the murder of Akhlaq, the father of an armyman, in Dadri in Western UP, and many such incidents, were example of how right-wing influence had grown on the country and how it had affected the society, as lawmakers went on to protect and garland those involved in lynching.

Another version of this report is available at the medium

NOTE: Though a major incident, the cow protection brigade's agitation in 1966 was quickly forgotten, and was rarely talked about. It's only in recent times, when WhatsApp messages gave a twist and talked about government firing on Sadhus made rounds that some news outlets recalled it. 

This report mentions it as 'the very first attack on Indian parliament'. The report mentions that how BJS' MP Swami Rameshwaranand who was elected from Karnal in undivided Punjab led the mob towards Parliament  House complex 'with a clear intent to storm it' and finding the gates closes, the mob 'launched a free for all attack on govt buildings'.

Another report mentions that it was the first attack and it was carried out by the 'gau rakshaks'. It also gives information about the death of a policeman in the attack and also throws light on the backdrop, giving examples like the use of an objectionable caricature. 

Yet another report in The Caravan, quotes newspaper reports of the era to tell how mob caused extensive damage and destruction, that there was hardly a building on the parliament street that didn't bear signs of vandalism. CRPF was out on streets, curfew was imposed and loss estimated at Rs 90 lakh.

[*another person's death was confirmed later, taking the toll to, at least, eight. The incident had occurred on November 7, 1966.]