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The Reason why we need Milli Gazette
By M. Zeyaul Haque

... and Radiance, Muslim India, Nation and the World...

M. Zeyaul HaqueWhile the Babri Masjid demolition campaign was at its peak in the late 80s, newspapers were full of politically motivated anti-Islam, anti-Muslim analyses and stories. Muslim intellectuals and leaders trying to refute the wild allegations often found that their rebuttals were ignored. 

It was at this point of time that Saiyid Hamid and some other Muslims decided to have their own small little publication, Nation & the World, which could provide a platform for alternative opinion. Cash-strapped and constrained in many other ways (some of them hinted at by AU Asif, a former N&W staffer, in one of his recent MG articles), this publication never had an easy existence.

Despite its limitations it served some purpose, and was quoted by major publications. Historian Mushirul Hasan quoted from it in his Legacy of a Divided Nation and Rafiq Zakaria in his The Widening Divide. Some youngsters who began their career here are doing well today in larger outfits. That’s possibly all that one can say about it today.

Other publications mentioned above too have been working under similar conditions, yet remained relevant and useful. The latest in the stable is Milli Gazette, and we have all the reason to wish it well. One of the immediate reasons to wish it well is that recently The Indian Express carried Arun Shourie’s address at a seminar in full two pages over two days. As usual, Shourie was extremely harsh on Islam, expressing views that were too extreme. I e-mailed a rejoinder and waited for a fortnight for it to appear. The Express did not think it necessary to give the accused the right to explain. Milli Gazette came forward to carry the rebuttal.

This shows how the media preaches democracy and fairplay, but disallows the accused to plead his case. Then, where do the aggrieved go? To the alternative media, of course. This is how it works everywhere. Those denied the right to reply launch their little publications. Even in Western democracies the underprivileged are denied access to large media outfits and are forced to start their own publications, which have a lot of vitality. Sometimes even the bigger publications take up issues raised by the smaller ones.

Milli Gazette, over the last two years, has indicated the lapses of the “national media” by publishing vital stories ignored by these big outfits. In some cases they made up by publishing follow-up on MG’s lead.

The first time I realised how important these smaller publications were sometime after the demolition of the Babri Masjid. After having accomplished the great feat of demolition and assaulting quite a few journalists, the BJP decided that the aggrieved had to be pacified in the interest of polities. Under a banner called “Friends of BJP”, the party organised a meeting of some Muslim social workers and journalists. The Programme was organised by Urdu poet Shuja Khawar, who had joined the party recently after quitting the IPS. I was one of the participants.

The Muslim participants talked frankly about what could the BJP do to improve its ties with Muslims. The next day the newspapers carried a report on it saying that Muslim intellectuals had “warned Muslims” to beware of Congress vote bank politics. I was aghast to see the report. Nobody had even mentioned Congress, or vote bank. There was no question of warning Muslims at all. I wrote a rejoinder to one of these “national” dailies saying the report was not true and explained what had really happened at the meeting. The editors refused to carry it. As a last resort, Nation & the World carried it, explaining what had really happened. That shows how important these publications are in nailing lies.

Publications like Muslim India serve a vital need by scanning the media and documenting reports, edits and analyses for reference. Muslim India also goes beyond the din and bustle of media to reproduce archival material of vital interest to the community, besides articulating important issues with extraordinary clarity in its edits. Radiance too has its role.

The point here is that if we can’t afford to have larger publications, TV channels and radio stations, we can work harder on making the existing publications more readable by better writing and design. There is room for improvement in reporting and research standards also. Improvements would definitely come in the long run. But the show has to go on.

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