Indian media has defied all global trends and negative predictions about the future of the print media. Despite the perceived threat from news portals, digital news, and news on mobile telephones, the print media is flourishing in India. “The new media will surely come but the print media will continue to have its say and a definitive role to play,” says journalist Mohd Atif.
In the midst of this, Urdu print media has got a new lease of life. From being on the verge of extinction, Urdu newspapers and news magazines have bounced back into the spotlight with a sharp increase in circulation, even as new Urdu papers are launched in different cities. This boom, if it can be called that, has been visible since the beginning of the last decade.
“A decade ago there used to be few Urdu newspapers and they were either owned by a few influential Muslims or some organisations but now the corporate houses are taking keen interest in publishing Urdu newspapers and it is a welcome sign,” says Dr. Maroof Khan, principal, Dr. Zakir Hussain Memorial School. In 2006, the Sahara Group launched the Urdu edition of Rashtriya Sahara. At that time only Qaumi Awaz, the sister Urdu publication of National Herald, was considered worth reading. More recently, the Jagran group has taken over the widely read Mumbai based Urdu newspaper “Inquilab.’ The Editor of Inquilab, Shakil Shamsi, gives credit to both technology and corporate houses for the recognition of Urdu Media. “It is because of this technology boom that Urdu media is able to expand its wings. Earlier Urdu media owners were hesitant to use technology as it was costly but now bringing out four colour newspapers at a time is not a problem. Computers and latest printing machines have made everything very accessible,” he says.
“The advent of corporate houses has given a big boost to the Urdu media and the corporate houses have also realised the reach of Urdu newspapers. It is because of this reach that they are showing interest,” says Shamsi. The editor of Rashtriya Sahara, Urdu, Aziz Burney, sees a bright future for the Urdu Media. “Now people have realised that Urdu has more depth than any other regional media. The purpose of launching Urdu newspapers or channels is not merely commercial. Corporate houses feel that there is a major chunk of Indian readers who want to read Urdu newspapers. Urdu knowing people, mostly Muslims, read Urdu newspapers along with English, Hindi or other regional languages so that they might know about the activities taking place within the Muslim community. It is a fact that these activities will not get space in other languages,” he says. He further points out, “The Urdu media played an important role in the freedom struggle and even today the Urdu newspapers are not just news providers but they play an important role in building a healthy society.” Zafar Agha, editor-in-chief of Urdu daily Jadeed Mail, is very optimistic about the future of the Urdu media. He says, “After politicians and political parties, the corporate houses have also started realising the importance and reach of the Urdu media and once the multinational companies also realise that by advertising in Urdu newspapers they can make a huge profit then Urdu and the Urdu media would get a further boost.”
The major Urdu newspapers and channels that are run by corporate houses are Rashtriya Sahara, Inquilab, Azad Hind, Hind Samachar, ETV, Aalmi Sahara and Zee Salam. It is not that only corporate houses are taking interest. Recently the Hyderabad based newspaper ‘Munsif’ launched its news channel whereas Mumbai based ‘Urdu Times’ is all set to launch its print editions from Delhi and Lucknow. Imtiaz Ahmed, editor, Urdu Times, is happy with the advent of corporate houses in Urdu media but has his apprehensions also. “No doubt, Urdu is a big market but if this market goes into the hands of corporate houses then the Urdu media will lose its importance and sheen. It will become another Hindi newspaper written in Urdu. These corporate houses will be driven by commercial interest and the interest of Urdu readers or Urdu knowing community will be sacrifised. The smaller newspapers will suffer the most because the corporate houses will have no problem in starting several editions and they will eat up the major chunk of advertisement. It is an open secret that no newspaper can survive on circulation, it has to have advertisements for survival,” he explains.
Mohd Ahmad Kazmi, editor, Media Star News and Feature Agency, says “Although Urdu journalists and Urdu knowing people will now have a better choice of newspapers, what remains to be seen is that whether these positive developments will be accompanied by cultural invasion and political agenda.” There are many journalists who are suspicious of corporate interest in the Urdu media. “The advent of corporate houses in Urdu media is a part of big conspiracy. The conspirators want to take over Urdu media so that the truth and the version of Muslim community do not reach the Urdu knowing masses,” says Hasan Shuja, who is the resident editor of Sahafat, Delhi.
There is no doubt that the Urdu media is getting tremendous recognition. In fact, journalists who had worked in the English media, are moving back into Urdu journalism. Qaumi Awaz is planning a re-launch, a national English daily is toying with the idea of starting an Urdu edition, and after a very long time Urdu knowing journalists are in great demand. This is a big plus for the language and also for the scribes who were finding it impossible to eke a living out of journalism a few years ago.
At the time of partition: 415 Urdu Newspapers (including all daily, weekly, fortnightly and monthly newspapers).
After partition: Only 345 of them remained in India as owners of 70 newspapers migrated to Pakistan.
In 1952: Press commission was formed and the Press Commission gave its first report in 1958, covering details till 1957.
As per RNI report of 1957: Total number of Urdu newspapers was 513. This means that after partition 168 new newspapers were registered and the total circulation was 7.48 lakh
As per RNI report 2007: The number of Urdu dailies was 3,168 and combined circulation of all Urdu newspapers was 1.7 Crore.
Only four Urdu newspapers have the ABC circulation certificate: Siasat (Hyderabad), Munsif (Hyderabad), Hind Samachar (Delhi), Urdu Times(Mumbai)
Till 2006 Andhra Pradesh had the maximum registered Urdu Newspapers (510).