Background6.1 Urdu newspapers and periodicals constitute a very large and important segment of our national press. There has been a phenomenal increase in their number and circulation but they have still to go a long way to attain financial stability and technical excellence. Many a historical factor is responsible for the present state of under-development. To understand their present problems and propose remedial measures, it will be useful to survey the historical scene briefly.
6.2 The history of lndian journalism, as we know it today, can be traced back to 1780 but, during the first three decades, it remained confined to the English language. Around 1785, an English weekly, the Calcutta Gazette, introduced a column in Persian, devoted to news from Delhi and the royal court at the Red Fort,* but the innovation was short lived. In its files for the years 1786-87, one comes across English renderings of some ghazals, with their Persian texts or some advertisements in Urdu, Persian and Arabic. It is too slender an evidence to be taken for a beginning. It has been claimed, though on doubtful authority, that the first Indian paper was the Hinduatani,a Persian weekly published from calcutta in 1810.** No copies of the paper arc available and one does not hear of this or any other persian or Urdu journal until April 1822, when the first Urdu paper, the Jam-i-Jahan,Numa was launched at Calcutta under the editorship of Lal Sadasukh Lal. It became the forerunner of an unbroken chain of papers from many other centres and made it possible for Urdu language press to play a dominant role for many years to come
6.3 What seems to have delayed the mergence of Urdu journalism for so long was the repressive policy pursued by the East India Company against such English weeklies as ventured to criticise it. A number of English and Anglo-Indian editors of the first new journals were imprisoned, fined or transported. Others were made to put up with the indignity of submitting their copy to unimaginative consors In their hours of adversity, the English papers had the support of the Company's disgruntled servants and probably received financial and other assistance from them. The Indian language press could not have expected even that much of backing from any quarter. They had, therefore to wait for better times to come. Further, there was the dearth of good printing presses in Indian languages.
6.4 One of the main impediments to the growth of free journalism was removed with the with drawal of censorship on August 19, 1818. Although the circular abolishing censorship permitted the continuance of many a restriction, it did relax some of the curbs. In the comparatively free atmosphere, a number of Indian language papers started publication. By the end of 1822, Calcutta had launched two weeklies in Bengali and two in Persian. While the third was on its way. One of the Persian weeklies, the Mirat-ul-Akhbar, was edited by the indomitable fighter for the freedom of the press, Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
6.5 A year later, Mani Ram Thakur brought out the Shamsul Akhbar, which suivived for five years. On its closure, the Editor remorsefully confessed : "I have gained nothing by it, except vexation and disappointment, notwithstanding what idlers and ignorant may please to assert".
6.6 The pioneers of Indian language journalism fought hard to overcome the numerous impediments. Their ranks swelled rapidly. The Oudh Akbhar, Lucknow (April 11, 1880) quotes from the Times, London, that the number of Indian language newspapers, which stood at six in 1835 and 28 in 1850, rose to 97 in 1878, India alone. These 97 papers commanded a total circulation of 1.50 lakh.
6.7 The earliest authentic record about the state of Urdu press relates to 1848, when there were 26 newspapers, 19 in Urdu, 3 each in Hindi and Persian and one in Bengali. These included two magazines. The aggregate circulation of these 26 journals added up to the incredibly low figure of 1500.ft
6.8 The following year, while the total number of newspapers published from the North West Provinces remained stationary, that of the Hindustani papers had Increased to 26. In 1852, the number of Hindustani newspapers and periodicals had further risen to 34 in N.W.P. A number of cities in northern India were developing into newspaper centres. According to the same source, Agra used to publish seven papers, Delhi six, Meerut two, Lahore two, Banaras Seven, Sardhana one, Bareilly one, Kanpur one, Mirzapur one, Indore one, Ludhiana one, Bharatpur one, Amritsar one and Multan one. Of these Akbbar-Ul-Haqaiq of Agra was a bi-weekly, Movarul-Shoara was a literary journal while the Akhbar-Ul-Nawah and the bilingual Agra Government Gazette were official publications. The last named paper ran parallel columns in English and Urdu. The Sudhakar Akhbar of Banaras was initially a Hindi-Urdu weekly but later became an exclusively Hindi journal.
*Cultural History of India, British period; page 89.
**R.R.Bhatnagar, "The Rise and Growth of Hindi Journalism,pages 22and671 quoted from Indian Daily Mail,Maari Vol. 37 No. 5 and Nigar Vol. 87 No. 5 page 4.
Calcutta Journal, dated April 1, 1822.
Suba shimaliwa Uaghribike Akhbarat wa Matbuat by Mohammad Aliq Siddiqui : 23.
6.9 By 1853, the number of newspapers had crawled up to 37, but the highest circulation of an individual paper had not gone beyond 259. (Statistics pertaining to the years 1948 and 1953 are based on the "Selections from the Records of the Government of N.W.P. Part IV" published by the Government Press Allahabad in 1968 which hag been re- printed in Urdu by M. Ariq Siddiqui under the title "Suha Shumali Wa Maghrabi Ke Akhbarat Wa Matbuat").
6.10 We get some additional information from the same source about Calcutta which had at that time 16 papers, five of them in Persian or Urdu. Urdu wag being used by large sections in northern India as the chief medium of communication. Many of the earliest newspapers were edited by the Hindus, whose contribution to the development of Urdu journalism is immense* At the same time, the publisher of at least one Hindi paper of that period, namely, Martand, which ran parallel columns in other languages, was a Muslim.
6.11 A somewhat detailed and connected account of the earlier stages of development has been provided by Gracin de Tassy in his discourses, but his statistics, should be read with caution and treated as only illustrative. They are by no means exhaustive and his sources also are not always authoritative. He often uses the terms Hindustani and Urdu as synonyms and, at times, forgets to distinguish Hindi from Urdu. Unwary readers may easily get confused. However, the chief merit of his lectures lies in the panoramic view that he projects of the early history of Urdu and Hindi journalism.
6.12 Not many papers were long-lived. During 1848-1853, several of them closed down and ropped up. In 1854, there were 33 newspapers in N.W.P. alone, with a total circulation of 2,216 of The bigger centres, Agra had 10 papers, Banaras seven, Bareilly one, Bharatpur one, Lahore two, Multan two, and Sialkot one. Newly started ones numbered seven. Circulation figures continued to be extremely low. The largest Circulation, that of Kohinoor of Lahore, was only 349.*
6.13 An idea of the circulation of important Urdu papers before the 1857 Rebellion can be had from the fact that the Delhi Urdu Akhbar printed only 69 copies and took four years to clamber up to 73: To add to its difficulties, a number of the readers did not pay their subscription and the income slumped. Another paper the Sayyad Ul Akhbar fell in circulation from 50 in 1844 to 27 in 1848. It is surprising that they should have failed to make any visible progress in terms of leadership during the quarter of a century of their chequered existence.
6.14 News, as we know it today, was unknown to the editors of these early papers. Whatever information fell into their hands used to be printed in the form of letters and stories and the presentation was poetic, metaphorical and laboured.
6.15 Before the Great Rebellion of 1857, interest in politics seems to have been only casual. Public affairs were seldom studied or projected in depth. Some of the periodicals like the Fawaid-ul-Nazrin (estb. 1845) blazed a new trial by communicating to the public the newly acquired western knowledge. Stray advertisements that were noticed usually emanated from the Presses themselves.
The Great Rebellion6.16 Gracin de Tassy does not give many details of what happened to the press in 1857 and thereafter beyond disclosing that many Urdu papers had become defunct by 1859. All the eight papers from Delhi, for instance, bad ceased publication. We have, therefore, to look to other sources for facts relevant to the history of this period. For example, Lahore Chronicle (July 11, 1857) speaks of Indian language newspapers engaging themselves in treasonable and subversive activity.
6.17 In the Great Rebellion, Urdu language papers, which had developed most, suffered the most. In the tumult, literary and educational activities came to a standstill and nascent Urdu Journalism almost died an abortive death.
6.18 In its initial stages, though, the 1857 war gave a great boost to the press and a large number of Urdu papers and journals made their debut. Notable among these were the Sadiqul Akhbar and Delhi Urdu Akhbar. The editor of the latter, Maulvi Mohammed Baqar, was shot dead for aiding the rebels, while Jamaluddin the editor of the former, wag sentenced to three years imprisonment. It is doubtful if the rebels were able to utilize these two papers for the purposes of their movement. They were, however, considered subvertive enough to attract the severest punishment.
6.19 In June 1857, the Governor General imposed Act No. XV of 1857 to regulate the establishment of printing presses and to restrain circulation of printed books and papers In certain cases. Under the Act no Press could be kept or used unless a licence had been obtained from the Government.It was used ruthlessly to stifle the voice of freedom. Not only were editors and printers persecuted, but copies of news papers and journals were confiscated, issues prescribe, presses sealed or attached and criminal proceedings instituted
6.20 Simultaneously,the Government seemed to have given official patronage and subsidies to a few loyal papers which were there to avail themselves of the opportunity. Some of the papers, presumably inspired, seem to have got involved in communal and parochial issues also. But, by and large, Urdu news. papers adopted an anti-British and pro-Rebellion attitude throughout the struggle. The pattern for the nationalist press was thus set In 1857.
* Gracin de Tassy, as quoted on P. 651 of " The Rise and Growth of Hindi Journalism" by R. R, Bhatnagar,
6.21 Contemporary sources do not give details of the repressive measures aimed at the press but a few mores instances can be sited. The Sultan-Ul-Akhbar, a Persian paper, had to face a chrge before the Calcutta Supreme Court and, ultimately had its licence forfeited. The Gulshan-i-Naubahar was penalized for seditious writing and faced the forfeiture of the press. The Raizul Akbar met the same fate. The Editor of Murtzai, a persian weekly of Peshawar, was sent to jail.
Post-Rebellion Journalism6.22 While quite a few new Urdu papers appeared during the Great Rebellion, a much larger number ceased publication, the total dropping steeply from 35 in 1853 to 12 in 1858. The decline is directly related to the reign of terror let loose in 1857. In the North West Provinces, most Urdu papers had ceased publication after the outbreak of the war.
6.23 After 1857, Urdu journalism entered a new era of development. Mention may be made of some major papers like the Oudh Akhbar Lucknow; the Scintific Gazette, Aligarh, the Tahazib-ul- Akhlaq,Aligarh; the Oudh Punch, Lucknow; the Akmalul Akhbar, Delhi; the Punjab Akhbar, Lahore; the Shamsul Akhbar, Madras; the Kashful Akhbar, Bombay;the Qasim-ul-Akhbar,Bangalore and the Asiful Akhbar Hyderabad. Of these the Oudh Akhbar lived long and was soon converted into a daily. Published by Munshi Nawal Kishore,it shot into great prominence under the editorship of Ratan Nath'Sarshar'.It was,however, not the first Urdu daily That credit went to the Urdu Guide, Calcutta, established by Maulvi Kabir ud-Dir Ahmed Khan in 1858.
6,24 After the severe setback in 1857, the 'newspapers reallied again soon thereafter. Reverting to Gamin de Tassy, we find that in 1861, 18 new journals had been started, eleven of which were in Urdu. Citywise there were eight journals from Agra, two from Ajmer, two from Etawah and one each from Ludhiana, Meerut, Jaunpur, Saharanpur, Allahbad and Kanpur. Kanpur published the daily Shole-i-Tur.
6.25 In his discourse on December 2, 1861, Garcin de Tassy tells us that the number of newspapers published in Hindi and Urdu, in the North Western Provinces is ever on the increase and they have almost regained their pre- 'Mutiny" number and importance. In February next year, he feels that the Urdu press had resumed work with new vitality but regrets that all the newspapers did not have good circulation. In a population 3.3. million in North Western Provinces there are very few people who read newspapers. The recovery was significant because the Times, London, (February 27, 1864) wrote that newspapers were being published in India from far off corners.
6.26 In 1865, de Tassy noticed that more cities in N.W.P. which were earlier without newspapers, bad started publishing them. The following year, the spoke of the Oudh Akhbar having become "an essential element of the educated class" life. By 1869, the number of newspapers in N. W. P., had again crawled upto 27. Language-wise, Urdu claimed still the largest number, i.e. 16. The periodicity showed greater variety. There were now 13 weeklies, five fortnightlies and six monthlies.*
6.27 In 1870, quite a few periodicals and journals Were set afloat by different literary and social organisations with reformist alms. Meanwhile, the number of bilingual papers hod increased to merit special mention. Some papers like the Simla Akhbar used Urdu language in the Devnagari script.
The Era of Wit and Humour6.28 Early in the sixth decade of the 19th century, some papers devoted to humour and satire appeared on the scene, obviously in spired by Punch, London. The earliest in the series was the Mazaq, of Rampur established in January 1855. It was followed by the Madras- Punch. the Farhatul Ahbad, the Rohilkhund Punch and the Bihar-Punch. The Oudh Punch, Lucknow, came out In January 1877 and dominated the scene for a longtime. Its editor, Munshi Sajjad Hussain, was a staunch Supporter of the nationalist cause and a trenchant critic of the administrative excesses in British India as well as in the princely States-The style set by the Oudh Punch proved so popular that within a decade, about 50 Papers devoted to humour and satire,flooded the market. Of these, 43 have been listed by Dr. Abdul Salaam Khurshid.** Some of these papers like Oudh Punch, used to publish cartoons also and the profession threw up a couple of talented cartoonists
Journalistic Standards6.29 By 1873; newspapers and journals had multiplied rapidly but little had been done to improve the journalistic standards. The Akhbar-i-Anjuman-i-Punjab (December 10, 1875) criticised those "who treated journalism as a hobby. Many of the press owners had become Editors without knowing the rudiments of journalism. In India those who were unable to get into any profession took to jornalism." while the remark held good in the case of a majority of papers, there were several examples of good journalism too.
6.30 A contributing factor to the proliferation of these papers was that the Government purchased some copies of each newspaper. 'When the Government of N.W.P. gave up this practice in 1876, unenterprising publishers suspended their publications soon after.
Coming of Age6.31 The Urdu newspapers and periodicals bad improved qualitatively by the eighth decade of the 19th century.Improved standard led to rise inpopularity.The credit for setting the tone goes to the Urdu
* Garcin de Tassy, as quoted on page 656 in "The Rise and Growth of Hindi Journalism), by R. R. Bhatnagar.
** "Sahafat Pakistan Wa Hind Men"-Pages 248-249.
newspapers like the Kohinoor and the Oudh Akhbar. * The language used grew more uniform and was marked by increasing simplicity and directness, although it was still far removed from the common Urdu speech. The thirst for scientific and historical knowledge,as for liberty and liberalism, had grown immnsely and it was reflected in the contents of the resporsible periodicals and papers.
6.32 With the publication of the Akhbar-i-Aam (edited by Pandit Gopi Nath) and the Paisa Akhbar (established 1887) edited by Munshi Mahboob Aalam from Punjab, a new phase of journalism began. These dailies remained popular with the readers for more than half a century. Their news coverage was varied, though not extensive. An element of display had also been introduced In the advertisements. The editorial comments were better informed and sober in tone. Papers like the two mentioned above were run on commercial lines and achieved considerable success.
6.33 The Pioneer and a few other Anglo-Indian papers became so apprehensive of the language papers that they launched a campaign for curbing them. their out cries were responsible for the enactment of the Vernacular Press Act in 1878, which virtually gagged the politically conscious newspapers. In 1877, Sir George Birdwood was in a position to certify that the 'Native Press of India, was commendably loyal. The criticism became so feeble that the Duke of Buckingham, Governor of Madras, remarked that the "offences complained of were statements of unpalatable truths in strong language" - But the bureaucracy was not expected to tolerate truths which are not only unpalatable, but also expressed in strong language. The Indian language press remained suspect despite its subdued tone. The Vernacular Press Act was repealed in 1882.
6.34 The emergence of the Indian National Congress in 1885 led its opponents like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Raja Shiv Prasad to carry on a fight against the party through their papers. On the other side newspapers like the Oudh Punch, the Hindustani and the Advocate of Lucknow and the Qaisarvl Akhbar of Allahabad rallied to the support of the Congress.
6.35 Early in 1884-85, the total number of newspapers In Urdu came to 117, of which the largest number, namely, 51 were published In the North West Province, followed by 39 in Punjab, 25 in Oudh and two in Central India. Rajputana had no Urdu paper but three Hindi Urdu bilinguals. Similar bilinguals in N.W.P.numbered five. R.R.Bhatnagar gives the following tricennial circulation figures between 1891-1922.
Years Circulations 1891 16,256 1901 23,747 1911 76,608 1922 1,40,4866.36 Steady progress was maintained till the close of the 19th century.
6.37 Newspapers bad definitely Improved In circulation and some of them, like the Paisa Akbhar, were sold in substantial numbers. The news, comments and featured articles displayed a greater variety of style. The predominent political trend was nationalistic. Among the political topics featured, were the resentment against imposition of taxes; the lowering of the age of recruitment to civil services; the demand for the holding of Civil Service competitive examinations simultaneously In India, as In London; the concern at the growing unemployment among the educated and criticism of the annual budgets.
6.38 At the beginning of the 20th centry, there were only three Urdu dailies, the Paisa Akbhar, the oudh Akbhar, and the Sulh-i-Kul and politically they all belonged to the moderate group. As, however, the new political wave swept the country, news-papers and periodicals like the Zamindar, the Hindustani, the Al Hilal and the Hamdardintroduced new political purpose fulness in journalism. The Hindustan, Lahore; the Deepak, Amritsar, the Desh, Lahore; the Urdu-i- Molla, Kanpur ; the Muslim Gazette, Lucknow; the Madina, Bijnore; the Hamdam, Lucknow; and the swaraj, Allahabad did a great deal to awaken political consciousness and to enlist popular participation in the national movement for freedom.
6.39 Politics and social reform dominated Urdu journalism from the very beginning of the 20th century. The political and social movements launched by the Congress, the Muslim League, the Hindu Mahasabha, the Arya Samaj, the Khilafat Committee and the Aligarh Movement, exercised profound influence on Urdu language newspapers and periodicals. They contributed towards the general growth of literature as well. The style became more forceful and direct and' a much richer and more varied vocabulary developed as a result of the Increased tempo and the sharpening of social and political conflicts and the widening of horizons.
6.40 Another important feature of this period was the growing importance of the monthlies. A number of literary and cultural monthlies, including a few specializing the specific subjects, were floated and they built up considerable readership, cutting across regional barriers. Most of the journals commanded interState circulation and quite a few could boast of an-all-india readership. In the matter of readership, only a few weeklies, like the Al-Hilal, shared the growing popularity of the magazines.
6.41 The Al-Hilal was the first Urdu paper to publish photographs and illustrations and could also be regarded as the first political journal. it was printed in type, while most of the others relied on calligraphy