Ghalib se Aziz Burney Taq: A Critique of the Urdu Media
This article originally appeared in centreright.in. CRI content has now been subsumed in swarajyamag.com. The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of swarajyamag.com

By Gordon Gekko

I have been an avid fan of Urdu poetry ever since I heard Ghulam Ali sing “Hungama hai kyon barpa, thodi si jo pee li hai.” And ever since then I have been mesmerised with the lilting cadence of this sweet language.  It was but natural for me to graduate to learn Urdu so that I could read the poetry in its original glory rather than in Devnagari script. And as a logical extension, I have started reading the Urdu print media.

And it was the reading of this media that has hurt my sensibilities. For one I found that Urdu media – whether print or electronic – identifies itself as an extension of the Muslim community.  Or it can be said that Muslim community wants to express its views only through the Urdu media. Urdu may have had its origins in the barracks of Mughal Kings, but it was a language that was widely used till independence and was a means of communication between large parts of India and did not restrict itself to specific communities. A Hindu or a Christian or a Muslim in Tamil Nadu speaks the same Tamil and follow the mainstream media just as Marathi or Kannada or Bengali or Telugu etc have not restricted themselves to any specific community.

However, this is not the case with the Muslim Community from North India and particularly in post-Independence India. A divide between Hindi and Urdu is quite evident with Urdu being recognised as the language of Muslims and Muslims alone.

As I mentioned above, this has also led to ghettoisation of the expression of ideas and thoughts from Muslim community. With Muslim ideologues and youth preferring to express themselves exclusively in Urdu, it has created a dangerous obstacle in the free exchange of ideas and thoughts between ‘majority’ and ‘minority’ communities.

This is dangerous.

Neither community is aware of what the ‘other’ is thinking. This increases the dependence upon interpreters (interlopers would be a better word) to conduct dialogue between groups. Over a period of time, the discourse has gradually come to be characterised by overtones of “otherness.”

While the Hindi and English are generally widely read and understood, most of us do not even know what the Urdu media is printing and reporting. The Urdu media seems to work on the premise “Of the Muslims, For the Muslims and By the Muslims.” No new thoughts or fresh ideas are permitted to emerge.  Urdu media thus having a limited reach is working overtime to build an image of Defender of Islam rather than a modern purveyor of news and views.

Most news items are focused on emotive themes close to the heart of the Indian Muslim which are a never ending saga of woes against the ‘majority’ community: Babri Masjid, RSS/BJP/Narendra Modi, Kashmir and the issues of Muslims across the globe.  The Urdu media is full of all possible conspiracy theories against Muslims across the globe. This will obviously cover Israel, 9/11 attacks and post attack American military action, internecine Shia–Sunni wars, Arab – Iran issues, the Hijab debates etc

I have not come across a single article in news papers such as Urdu Times, Roznama, Rashtriya Sahara or Inquillab that addresses issues related to education, economic issues, labour issues, migration of populations, urban-rural divide, women’s rights etc.

It is important for the wider society to start learning Urdu so that baseless coverage and mindless propaganda in Urdu Media can be challenged. At the same time, I deem it our duty to present the true picture to the Muslim masses to uplift them from the morass their communal leadership has enslaved them in. It is incumbent upon the wider community to help Muslims modernise and find the world outside the ghettos filled with the regurgitated stories of Muslim victimisation.

The incestuous circle of blinkered liberals, communists and Islamic fundamentalists is known to quote each other and thus acquire a circle of professional recognition because a falsehood is repeated and referred a thousand times.

Wider society needs to become aware of the parochial and fundamentalist twist to every news that Urdu media tends to provide to play on emotions of ordinary Muslims. I am quoting a few examples that Urdu Media persists in spreading the falsehoods such as

1. Thousands of Muslims killed in Post-Godhra Train Burning riots in Gujarat whereas Government of India has given the numbers as 790 Muslims and 254 Hindus as pr answer given by Union Minister of State for Home  Affairs Shriprakash Jaiswal in the parliament in the year 2005 – even one death is far too many but extrapolation by propaganda reduces it to statistics –

2.  That Harsh Mander resigned in 2002 in protest against Narendra Modi whereas he actually retired with full government benefits much later

3. That R B Sreekumar resigned in protest against Narendra Modi whereas he retired with full benefits in 2008,

4. That Teesta Seetalvad is being harassed for her activism, forgetting to inform its readers that her own colleagues are accusing her of falsifying the affidavits and that Supreme Court has expressed its unhappiness with her craven attempts to internationalise these issues.

5. That number of Israeli security guards and agents are protecting industrial houses in Gujarat  refer article by Aziz Burney in Rashtriya Sahara dated 19/12/2010

6. And I really don’t need to talk about the great investigative journalism by Aziz Burney in his latest book 26/11 – RSS Ki Saazish (26/11 – An RSS conspiracy)

7. 9/11 is a Jewish conspiracy

8. Batla House is a fake encounter

Yes, the Urdu media must highlight issues of victimisation, but also shed light on the issues of the 21st century. A comparison with say Nav Bharat Times or Dainik Jagran will be of great help to the Urdu media catering to North Indian Muslims.

(Gordon Gekko is a friend of Centre Right India)