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Urdu Book Fair: 
A new beginning
By Syed Ubaidur Rahman

The first Urdu Book Fair organized from 4-12 November by the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language was a mammoth success. Not only that thousands of people poured in to see this historic occasion in the heart of Delhi organized in the backdrop of the historical Red Fort, but it also generated business worth several million rupees. 

The beginning could be termed as something of a bad start, but the same cannot be said when the things started going. Everything was in place once people started knowing of the book fair. A modest start concluded with a very encouraging note. People came in droves and appreciated the hard work put in by the organizers of the Fair. Hamidullah Bhat, the brain behind the fair, was the happiest man of the universe on the concluding day of this historic fair.

The response of publishers was also more than encouraging as more than 60 publishers turned to participate in the Urdu Book Fair organized for the first time. They came from everywhere, from Patna, to Rampur and Hyderabad. The important libraries of the country particularly, Khuda Bakhsh Library of Patna and Raza Library of Rampur were also present there. Books on all topics were available to bibliophiles. Even Pakistani books were available there. Books from Pakistan were first to be sold out. I did not imagine that people’s response will be so encouraging, said Hamidullah Bhat, beaming organizer and director of the National Council for Promotion of Urdu Language popularly known as Qaumi Council Bara-e-Farogh-e-Urdu Zuban. 

But everyone was not as happy as the young director of the Council. There were people who could be seen sitting idle and waiting for the buyers to drop into their stalls. On the other hand all the shelves were empty within a few days from a few stalls. It was particularly true in the case of Uttar Pradesh Urdu Academy. Anees, the marketing executive working with the Academy was more than happy. When the Milli Gazette asked him as to what was behind the excellent response his Academy received, he said that it is due to the low rates of the books being charged by the Academy. And truly the Academy charges just a pittance from the buyers. When this correspondent tried to purchase a few books from the Academy’s stall, he was struck with the amazingly low rates of the books. The whole collection of Faiz, and Mir Taqi Mir was up for sale for merely Rs seven each. The case with other books was no different either. 

A number of publishers who had come to participate in this Fair had come for the sole reason of publicity. Prem Gopal Mittal director of the National Book Foundation told this correspondent that though the response from the buyers could be termed only as modest, but he is eyeing publicity that he could not get from other means. He termed the amount being charged for a single stall as a pittance for the sort of publicity it is providing to publishers participating in the Fair.

It was not totally wrong. Even the director of the Council who did everything to ensure its success also aimed the same. Through this fair I want to increase the visibility of the Urdu books he said while talking to this correspondent. He told this correspondent that Urdu books have failed to get the sort of exposure that other languages have got. He said that a number of factors contributed to this state. And the biggest factor was partition, that ensured that Muslims shy away from the language being patronized by them. He added that now other communities are coming forward to learn the language. He said that they are even prepared to go to any extent to save the language. 

The presence of a number of non-Muslim publishers in the Urdu Book Fair was a sort of eye-opener for this correspondent. Prem Gopal Mittal of National Book Foundation was not alone. Seemant Publishers were also there. Others too made their presence felt in the field of Urdu book publishing in Delhi and elsewhere. Gopal Mittal told this correspondent that he is in this business for more than four decades and it is bread-winning source. They are publishing not only books on Urdu literature and other topics. They publish anything and everything. They even do not hesitate to venture in the fields of publishing books on Islam and even Qur'an. For them sky is the limit.

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