Saturday, May 21, 2016

Sorry State of Urdu journalism in Kashmir


SRINAGAR: Urdu journalism have become more challenging in the country especially in Kashmir valley as the people are switching over to the English language. If language wise anything binds the people of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, who have their own regional languages like Dogri, Kashmiri and Ladakhi respectively, its Urdu which is the medium of communication. Otherwise these three regions are Greek to each other.

Why has the Urdu journalism failed to attract youngsters to choose it as a career? Besides the official language of the state is facing the neglect is alarming. IRFAN QURAISHI explains the sorry state of Urdu Journalism in Kashmir.

Firstly, the Urdu newspaper owners are to be blamed for the decline in attraction of youngsters towards joining them.  “You have to link it with employability so that there is a prosperous career ahead”, said a budding journalist, Mir Iqbal, when asked why he did not opt Urdu journalism in the Urdu speaking state. 

“Urdu journalism lacks professional journalists and professionalism which makes its image very poor and dismal and due to which people losing interest in Urdu newspapers”, said a senior Journalist Majid Jahangir of BBC.

“People engaged in Urdu journalism failed to connect it with the market so that people who want to practice Urdu journalism as a profession will be encouraged. If Urdu newspaper owners can produce quality journalism, it will definitely attract people and increase readership”, he adds.

Otherwise what is being done is that a government employee is hired on low salary in his part time to work in evening resulting in low quality journalism.  There is utter need of Labour department and press council should look at these exploitation cases.

Secondly, the updating to new technology has become very important. The Urdu newspaper owners also failed to update their technology despite “getting huge funds from government. Most of the circulation in the state is of Urdu papers, it means they get more ads but they need to use latest modes to sustain and uphold the language.

“You need to have online edition, blog, twitter and other social media for Urdu papers as more people use it through them”, said Tahir Syed, ruling PDP government’s youth leader and former prominent Urdu Journalist of the state.   He gave a thought to earn from online, saying “Though government had started separate ads for online.”

The Urdu newspaper owners need to introspect. It has become a fashion to have a newspaper against your name in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Many allegedly use it for blackmailing and for getting ads from the government. This is killing the real journalism.

Journalists in valley acknowledge that the ‘Aftab’ was the first Urdu newspaper where reporters and subeditors were hired in professional way by Editor Khwaja Sanaullah, followed by the ‘Kashmir Uzma’. This means the scope of Urdu journalism in Kashmir has remained confined to just few newspapers out of dozen others run unprofessionally.

Ironically not a single Urdu newspaper in the state has prominent online presence except few have got websites developed to update their print edition. On the other hand, the state witnesses’ huge competition of English language papers on social networkings, blogs, and mobile applications for timely updates. Unlike English papers the Urdu papers have no idea of hiring staff for online edition. 

Third, there is need to keep Urdu alive but that it was the responsibility of the government to take measures for conservation.  The state run graduate and post graduate courses in colleges and universities in English journalism, but the need to start Urdu journalism courses are warranted for the growth of Urdu journalism in J&K. 

Urdu is a beautiful language that doesn't belong to a particular community. However 'step-motherly' treatments is being meted out to this beautiful language. “Government has turned blind eye towards its promotion. Bureaucracy does not want to see Urdu papers in their offices and are bent hell upon to eliminate this language. The same situation is faced by the country’s Urdu journalism”, senior Journalist Majid Jahangir of BBC said.

“It is unfortunate that Urdu language is being identified with Muslims only. It's a well-woven conspiracy to call Urdu a Muslim language. It was Urdu that united the Muslims and Hindus of the greater India and gave them the direction to fight against the imperialist Britain." He said that 45 Urdu poets were executed by the British whose prose and poetry pierced into imperialistic designs like venomous barbs.” said Lateef Ahmad, a retired teacher and an Urdu writer.  He took a dig at political parties and said, “Hardly any political party sends its press releases in Urdu.”

Highlighted commercial aspect of newspapers, editors in valley said, “There are hundreds (5400) of Urdu newspapers in India but they get fewer ads than English papers. Ads constitute two third income of a paper but DAVP prioritizes to English papers. The same treatment applies to the Kashmir Urdu publications now.”

As per the data available on the official website of Jammu & Kashmir Information Department, presently there are 16 Litho Urdu dailies, 30 offset Urdu dailies, 29 offset Urdu weeklies in Kashmir division. While as Jammu division has 23 offset Urdu dailies, 3 litho Urdu dailies, 30 offset Urdu weeklies, 3 litho bi-weeklies   and 5 fortnightly. Out of which according to the distributors maximum 5 Urdu newspapers have circulation, which are also under threat due to online news trend.

Calling for the promotion of Urdu language and keeping it alive as a necessity for being in sync with Kashmir’s rich heritage, traditions, history and religious journey, All Parties Hurriyat Conference (APHC) Chairman, Mirwaiz Dr. Moulvi Muhammad Umar Farooq said that though Urdu language was not only been spoken in the entire India Pakistan Subcontinent but had a unique place in Jammu Kashmir as well.

Speaking on the first anniversary of states only evident Urdu news magazine ‘Belaag’ recently, Mirwaiz said though this language had been the official language of Jammu Kashmir right from the days of autocratic rule, it was unfortunate that the language was facing government’s apathy and neglect now. The claims of the government about promoting and preserving it were proving to be hollow and mere wordplay.

Stressing that this official neglect of the Urdu language was carried out under a well planned design, he said this was being done in order to wipe out not only our heritage, traditions, art and culture but also the languages which symbolize our religious and social identity.  He terms it as a form of cultural aggression.

Irfan Quraishi is a Kashmir-based broadcast & multimedia journalist and works with Punjab Kesari. He has previously worked for Day & Night News and Kashmir Times. He tweets @ irfanquraishi85.

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