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Published in the 1-15 July 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Reasons for decline of Urdu journalism

The Milli Gazette Online

New Delhi: Urdu journalism which had played a very important role in the country’s war of independence is now on the decline reasons of which are partition of the country, narrow mindedness and prejudice of politicians, lack of facilities for basic and primary education in Urdu in states. These views were expressed by the prominent Urdu journalist, GD Chandan in the report prepared by him for government of India’s research institution, National Documentation Centre on Mass Communication. 

In this report he says that after Independence even in spite unfavourable circumstances there was a four-fold increase in the number of Urdu newspapers and almost seven-fold increase in their publication during 50 years, almost till the end of 1990’s but from the golden jubilee year of Independence ie 1997 onwards Urdu journalism began to decline. According to latest statistics, publication of Urdu newspapers in the year 2001 was reduced to 51,6,182 whereas it was 61,20,317 in 2000.

GD Chandan, who is also called ‘mobile encyclopedia of Urdu journalism’, said that according to statistics, in 1997 the short fall in the publication of Urdu newspapers as compared to the previous years was 7 percent and this trend is going on continuously. This trend is more visible in states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Punjab where Urdu was very popular formerly.

Two main reasons for this state of affairs have been described in this report. Firstly, a fairly large percentage of Urdu newspaper readers consisted of refugees of West Punjab who are now leaving this place one after the other. Their new generation is ignorant of Urdu. Secondly, the state governments are not taking suitable steps for providing and promoting Urdu education at primary level. According to him, this is specially the case in places or states which are considered the birth of Urdu such as for example, UP, Delhi and Indian Punjab which has very adversely affected the mental faculties and growth of the new generation whose mother tongue is Urdu.

In addition to all this, though all states have accepted the three-language formula, none of them has seriously and honestly put it into practice. Describing this mentality as extremely disappointing, he says that this should be the eye-opener to those selfish and opportunist politicians who have been making false promises for 57 years for the promotion of this language.

Referring to official statistics that four crore Indians have declared Urdu as their mother tongue, Chandan says that Urdu press represents and highlights the problems and aspirations of more than 12 crore Muslims of India. Moreover, it (Urdu Press) can play an important role in promoting mutual relations with the neighbouring country Pakistan whose official language is also Urdu. He regretted that in spite of the appointment of two press commissions, their reports have said and done nothing for the press of regional languages and suggested that the time has now come that a special Press Commission should be appointed to solve the problems of the press of all regional languages.

He also advises that out of 4,34,06,932 (roughly speaking 4.5 crore) Urdu speaking people (as per the 1991 census report) if every adult person of half of that number starts purchasing at least one Urdu daily and one Urdu magazine punctually, the situation can drastically change. 

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