'Hindi media is either very secular or very communal': Zafarul-Islam Khan
History of journalism in India can not begin without mentioning the names of some of the big names of Indian Muslim leadership. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, Maulana Mohammad Ali, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Hasrat Mohani etc were all one time or another been editor of a magazine. Even after Independence trend continued with a large number of Urdu newspapers and magazines published all across India. Unfortunately, most of the Muslim representation in media is limited to the Urdu language.
There have been some attempts to have Muslim ownership of the media in regional languages. This experiment has been successful in the south. In the north, there are almost no serious attempts to establish an independent Muslim voice in ever growing Hindi media.
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan who was the first person to start a newspaper in English
[The Milli Gazette] to give news with Muslim perspective, may also become the first person to make Muslim voice heard in Hindi print media.
IndianMuslims.info asks him about his plans:
How far along you are in launching of this Hindi newspaper?
At present this is only an intention in view of the dire need of such an initiative from the Muslim community on two counts:
1. The majority of our working and lower class in North India now reads only Hindi though it may still be speaking Urdu. The majority of Indian Muslims live in this Hindi region.
2. Hindi media has been most venomous when it comes to Islam and Muslims and therefore we should have something of our own as this will allow us to offer the other side of the story, refute lies and offer an alternative to the readers including non-Muslims, many of whom are also at the receiving end of this arrogant media dominated by upper caste people whose interests do not lie with the common man.
Will it be a Muslim newspaper targeting Muslims who can read Hindi or Hindi newspaper presenting news from a Muslim perspective?
It will be a newspaper run by Muslims for all Indians who read Hindi. There will be some Islamic content but the focus will be Indian issues from the point of view of the ordinary man, the weaker sections, and the oppressed who are a majority. In short, it will not be another Milli Gazette which was born out of a different need: to publish Muslim news and views for the Muslim and non-Muslim elite.
How will this newspaper be different than other Hindi newspapers?
Hindi media is either very secular or very communal and all are run by the elite and higher castes. We want to focus on the issues of the ordinary Indians, on consumer, human rights, communal harmony issues that affect everyone. In general, we will try to offer a positive and motivative journalism, not a negative, sensational and emotional one.
Do you know of any other attempt by Muslims to enter into Hindi media scene?
Our presence in Hindi media is very weak. With difficulty one may say that we have Kanti (weekly and monthly magazines) published by the Jamaate Islami and Shah Times a regional newspaper limited to some Western UP areas. I think the only thing "Muslim" about Shah Times is its owners just like Mid-Day of Bombay or Asian Age.
What is the commercial viability of this endeavor?
The commercial viability is very good as Hindi newspapers and magazines are very successful and are printed in hundreds of thousands. Unlike the Urdu and even Muslim readers, the ordinary Hindi reader likes to buy his paper and the market is very big.
What support you need for this project and what help you have got so far?
I have received some support but it is not enough to start such a project. Our budget estimate for the weekly tabloid Hindi newspaper (around 24 pages per issue if not more) is Rs ten million (one crore - US$ 227,200) over a period of three years but the promises we have received have not crossed even ten percent of this estimated budget. Those who pledge to buy shares will pay over three years once the final go-ahead is given. At this stage no one is asked to pay anything.
If you want to be part of Muslim owned media in Hindi please contact:
Dr. Zafarul-Islam Khan
D-84 Abul Fazl Enclave-I,
New Delhi 110 025 INDIA
Tel.: (+91-11) 2682 2883, 2692 7483, 2632 2825