Muslim Press in Historical Perspective
It is undeniable fact that media has a deep and widespread impact on the masses. It serves as an agent of socio-political, economic, and cultural change in the present age. It can disrupt a society or can stabilize a society. The public participation cannot be ensured in the process of socio-economic development until and unless there is awareness among the masses about a policy, program, and action of the government regarding a problem. An effective media can only ensure such awareness in a given society. All this depends on the role of media whether it is positive or negative.
Face-to-face communication was the order of the day in primitive society, when feudal states expanded and empires began to emerge the monarchs had to devise new techniques of communication in order to maintain contact with people inhabiting the far-flung areas of the empire. In Islamic society, mosque played a very important role in communication, both secular and spiritual. In the first instance, this represented an instrument for face-to-face communication. When the Islamic State assumed dimensions, a news organisation was established with the chief at the headquarters, served by a large number of news writers functioning in provincial capitals sending their newsletters speedily through an efficient system of horse-posts and camel- posts and in some still more speedily through the system of pigeon-post. News meant to be conveyed to the people was transmitted through the pulpit of the mosques. Mughal Emperors of the Indo-Pakistan subcontinent streamlined the system.
The news for the common man was transmitted through couriers to far-flung areas which was announced by the beat of the drum. When printing was introduced, the pattern of communication underwent a basic change. In the Indo-Pakistan sub-continent as well as in other Asian lands under subjugation, printed newspapers developed in an almost similar fashion, first appeared the English language newspapers for the European settlers. They were followed by newspapers in local languages sponsored by foreign missionaries with the object of spreading Christianity and convincing the local inabitants of the superiority of Western culture and achievements in the domain of knowledge.
A struggle for the freedom of the press culminated in success in 1835. The litho method of printing Urdu newspapers introduced soon after brought down the cost of production. Urdu became the court language. The British Prosecutor in the trial of Bahadur Shah after the failure of the National Struggle for Freedom in 1857, said that it was the conspiracy of the Press and Palace that brought about the great rebellion but it goes without saying that native language press was very feeble on the eve of the struggle.
Its total circulation was a little more than five thousand throughout the subcontinent making a total readership of about fifty thousand. The most widely-circulated ! Urdu newspaper was “Koh-i-Noor” of Lahore that printed 349 copies of. each issue in the hey-day of its glory. Even this feeble press, particularly the segment owned by Muslims, was obliterated during and immediately after the 1857 struggle.
The Growth Of Muslim Press In The Sub-Continent
The tempo of political agitation was quickened by the Muslim Press in Particular, in 1919, that set up new traditions of sacrifice. The Zamindar reappeared in December 1919. Its circulation was 6129 in 1921, 5150 in 1922 and 5400 in 1923. during the phase it had to deposit three securities of Rs. 2000 each which were all forfeited. All the money was donated by readers. Maulana Zafar Ali Khan went behind the bars for five years in connection with a speech at Hazier (Campbellpur Distt.) his son Akbar Ali Khan was sentenced to three years imprisonment for having published objectionable matter.
Another editor, Abdul Majid Salik was sent behind the bar for one year for having published a seditious editorial. A number of other editors of the same paper also remained imprisoned. Murtaza Ahmed Khan Maikaah, a news-editor of “Zamindar” resigned his job went to Hijrat and on return resumed charge of his duties. Syed Habib started daily “Siaasat” in 1919.
The paper was placed under censorship for some time. One sub editor was imprisoned and Syed Habib himself was sentenced to three years imprisonment for a seditious speech. Abul Kalam Azad sponsored “Paigham” from Calcutta in 1921 which had a short lived existence. Qazi Abdul Ghaffar sponsored “Sabah” from Delhi.
Muslim Press During 1924-1937
During this phase the role of Muslim press could be studied in two stages, the first covering the 1924-1928 period and the second covering the years between 1928 and 1937. During the first stage, Muslim politics was in the melting pot and in the second stage it took a concrete and clear-cut form. The following are the principal features of the first stage
- Some old journalists re-entered the arena. Mohammed Ali resumed publication of “Hamdard” and “The Comrade” in 1924. The former continued for five years and the latter for not more than a couple of years. Abul Kalam Azad re-started Al- Hilal in 1927 but after six months had to-close down as it was no longer in sufficient demand.
- More newspapers came into being namely “Al- Amman” and “Wahdat” from Delhi, “Khilfat” from Bombay, “Haq” and “Hamdam” from Lucknow, “Asre Jadid” and “Hind” from Calcutta,’ *A1 Waheed” from Karachi and “Muslim Outlook” and “Inqilab” from Lahore Among the old newspapers “Zamindar” remained prominent and “Siaasat” held.
Highlights of Policy
- Almost all Muslim dailies were primarily congregate with the possible exception of the “Muslim Outlook”, at the same time they owed allegiance to Muslim organizations striving of Muslim rights. They condemned Shuddi and Saiiathan movements and gave only lukewarm support to the Tabligh and Tanzem movements.
- Unusual attention was given to the politics of the Muslim world When Ibn-i-Saud demolished some tombs “Siasat” opposed him and Zamindar and Hamdard supported it. When Ibn-i-Saud accepted Kingship, Hamdard too lined against him while “Zamindar” supported him on the plea that he was anti-imperialist.
- During this phase the demand for reforms to the N.W.F.P. and separation of Sind from Bombay were projected from time to time in the columns of the “Zamindar”. With the emergence of the clear-cut Muslim stand in the form of Mr. Jinnah’s Fourteen Points, Muslim press was divided into two groups namely the Nationalist group and the Muslim League group. The former included “Zamindar” of Lahore, “A1 Jamiat” of Delhi, “Madina” of Bijnor and “Hind” of Calcutta. They also gave full support to the’ Congress when it launched civil disobedience movements in order to pressurize the British to part with power without taking into consideration the Muslim national demands. The erstwhile common membership of both Muslim League and Congress had, by that time ceased to exist.
- Later Maulana Zafar Ali Khan left Congress but did not join Muslim League. He sponsored Majilis-i-Ittihad-i-Millat, a new political party which suffered a rout in 1937 elections and after that he joined Muslim League and stood firm till the attainment of Pakistan.
- During the early thirties a group of Muslim nationalists established Majlis-i-Ahrar-i-Islam but stuck to the nationalist and anti-League policy. It started a few newspapers from time to time, but they had a short-lived existence.
- A notable addition to the nationalist Muslim press was “Payarq” of Hyderabad Deccan, edited by Qazi Abdul Ghaffar. Some Congressite elements started an Urdu daily from Lahore named “Tiriyaq” but it had to close down very soon.
Role Of Muslim Press 1924-1937
The pro-league Muslim Press of this phase was spear¬headed by the “Muslim Outlook” and “Inqilab” whose lead was accepted by Muslim papers all over the sub-continent. Their contribution was as follows:
- They exposed the machinations of the Congress and brought to surface the mischief done through the Nehru Report.
- Despite the Boycott of the Simon Commission by a large body of public opinion these papers projected Muslim Political demands to the Commission.
- Their support to the All-parties Muslim Conference and “Jinnah’s Fourteen Points” was unconditional, vigorous and consistent.
- Their united efforts led to the unification of the two sections of the League functioning as parallel bodies.
- The Lahore papers (Inqilab and Muslim Outlook) gave full support to Iqbal’s Allahabad Address and fought against the storm of opposition raised by the non-Muslim press.
- During the Round Table Conferences (1930-32) the Muslim press mobilized the public opinion to such a pitch that the announcement of the Communal Award became inevitable.
- The Muslim press supported the Kashmir Movement launched by Sh. Abdullah and Ch. Ghulam Abbas and made sacrifices for that. They also helped in strengthening the Ahrar civil disobedience movement involving arrest of 30,000 Muslims.
- The administration was continually watched to see where Muslim interests were trampled upon. These papers also gave support to Muslim officers who worked under great stress.
- The campaign for social reform and for promotion of education went on unabated. The papers also acted as forums for Muslim intellectuals who were ignored by the Hindu press.
- The press was friendly to the Muslim world, kept Indian Muslims informed of the new trends and movements in the Muslim world but the emphasis was on home politics.
Muslim Journalism During 1939-1947
During this phase the Muslim press grew rather rapidly. A Number of English language newspapers sprang up while Urdu* Press too had new additions. Together with the old newspapers, they voiced Muslim political aspirations with still greater force and placed the major role in mobilizing public opinion in support of the Pakistan Movement. The highlights are as follows:
- From Lahore appeared “Eastern Times” originally sponsored by Ferozsons under the temporary editorship of Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali. He was followed by Mr. F.K. Khan Durrani who had written a number of books on Muslim politics. Though shabby in appearance and deficient in equipment, it did play a role in projecting Muslim viewpoint. For a couple of years there existed in Lahore the “New Times” Weekly started by Malik Barkat Ali which acted as the spokesman of Muslim League.
- From Calcutta appeared a daily named “Star of India”, first under the editorship of Pothan Joseph and then of Lawrence P. Atkison. This was owned i by Kh. Shahabuddin and his family. This was a positively good paper and did a lot of work in interpreting Muslim politics. This was later replaced by “Morning News” jointly owned by Abdur Rahman Siddiqi and Kh. Nurruddin, brother * of Kh. Shahabuddin. The Morning News was a more vigorous spokesman and continued to appear till after partition and was later shifted to Dacca, subsequently bringing out an edition from Karachi. This was and even now is edited by Mohsin Ali. It was taken over by NPT in 1963 and consequently closed down in 1993.
- Elsewhere a number of weeklies sprang up. There was “Star” in Bombay edited by Aziz Beg, another weekly of the same name from Allahabad sponsored by Sir Shifaat Ahmed Khan, “Decean Times” from Madras and “Muslim Voice” from Karachi which was owned and edited by Pir Ali Muhammad Rashdi.
- Muslims were greatly handicapped by the fact that the API and the UPI were both controlled by Hindus. Their news was blacked out and distorted. Therefore a news agency named Orient Press of India was sponsored. Though financially weak and under equipped it did help in circulating news about Muslim Politics.
- The “Statesman” and the “Civil and Military Gazette” of Lahore realising that the chances for the projection of Muslim viewpoint were small, initiated special weekly features on Muslim polities. The column in “Statesman” was contributed by Mr. Altaf Hussain under the pen name of “Ain-ul-Mulk” and later “Shahid” while in the “Civil and Military Gazette” this column was written by Syed Nur Ahmed under the by-line “From our Muslim Correspondent.”
- Under private enterprise quite a number of Urdu papers also came in the field. Among these was “Ehsan” edited by Maulana Murtaza Ahmed Khan Maikash and Chiragh Hasan Hasrat. This appeared from Lahore and was the first to install a teleprinter. The paper was courageous spokesman of the Muslim League. Later the two editors resigned and established “Shahbaz” a new daily from Lahore which was a much better specimen of journalism than Ehsan. Maulana Maikash was an- editorial writer of repute and was considered the best after Maulana Ghulam Rasul Mehr.
- The Muslim press in Delhi was strengthened by the appearance of “Jang” and “Anjam” which in 1947 shifted to Karachi. Both papers supported the Muslim League. From Calcutta appeared “Azad” in Bengali under the editorship of Maulana Muhammad Akram Khan who had served as President of the Bengal Provincial Muslim League for pretty long. He remained the Chief Editor till 1968 when he died at the age of 100 years. This paper shifted to Dacca in 1948 and remained largest in circulation among Bengali papers in former East Pakistan.
- There also appeared “Millat” from Peshawar under the editorship of Rashid Akhtar Nadvi and “Tanzeem” from Quetta with Nasim Hijazi as editor. Though ill equipped, these papers played a notable role in countering congress propaganda in areas where its incfuence was great.
Several other papers were started from other cities of the sub-continent.
After the Lahore Resolution was passed the Quaid-i- Azam sponsored a “create Muslim press campaign” and collected funds for the purpose. He founded the “Dawn” in October 1942 as a daily from Delhi and placed it under a trust of which he was the Managing Trustee. The broad policy was to support the League but the paper was allowed to make independent criticism within the framework of its policy. Its first editor was Pothan Joseph but after a couple of years Mr. Altaf Hussain replaced him. Mr. Altaf Hussain weilded a trenchant pen and his editorials were widely appreciated. The Paper’s entry was banned by the Khizr Ministry during the League civil disobedience movement in Punjab, but thousands of its copies were smuggled and sold at a high price in several cities of the Punjab.
Quaid-i-Azam also started “Manshoor” an Urdu daily Irom Delhi which was the official organ of the All India Muslim League. This bright and fancy daily was edited by Syed Hasan Riaz. However, this paper could not succeed and had to close down after a couple of years.
In 1947 riots the Hindu mobs burnt the offices and the printing press of “Dawn”. As a result it closed down temporarily, only to reappear from Karachi at the inception of Pakistan. The Trust ceased to exist and it was owned by Pakistan Herald Publications Ltd. with majority of shares possessed by the Haroon family of Pakistan.
Another important addition to the Muslim Press was “Nawai-Waqt” of Lahore that appeared as a daily in July 1944 with Mr. Hamid Nizami and Mr. Hamid Mahmud as the co- founders. Earlier, it appeared as fortnightly with Shabbar Hasan as editor in 1940. The paper was technically a good specimen of Journalism and was also highly outspoken in support of the Pakistan Movement. This became very popular, particularly because of the short but to the point lucid and logical editorials of Hamid Nizami.
In February 1947, “Pakistan Times” appeared from Lahore under the aegis of the PPL with Mian Iftikharuddin holding a majority of shares. Its first editor was Desmond Young, formerly of the Statesman who was followed by Faiz Ahmed Faiz. This was a fully-equipped paper, at par with the Civil and Military Gazette. Its role during the civil disobedience movement was notable.
Some underground papers were also established in [ .ahore when the Khizar Cabinet had banned publication of the news of civil disobedience movement. These papers were oyclostyled and distributed on a large scale. Thus Muslim press became a power to be reckoned with. Side by side with the old papers like the “Zamindar”, “Inqilab”, “Asre Jadid”, “Khailafat” and others, the newspapers made their best efforts in convincing the Muslim masses of the righteousness of their cause and mobilizing their energies in support of the Pakistan Movement.
It goes without saying that during the last phase, Mr. Altaf Hussain and Mr. Hamid Nizami were the two leading editorial writers.
Role Of Muslim Press In Pakistan Movement
- Our struggle began with the 1857 National Struggle for Independence when the British liquidated almost the entire Muslim Press, shot dead the proprietor of Delhi Urdu Akhbar, issued warrants of arrest of its editor Muhammad Azad and sentenced Jamiluddin, editor of another paper to 3 years imprisonment. In the trial of Bahadur Shah, the Mughal Emperor, it was alleged that the Revolt was the outcome of Press-Palace conspiracy.
- The resurrection of Muslim Press was brought almost by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan through his two journals namely the “Scientific Society Magazine” and “Tahzib-ul- Akhlaq”. These papers were responsible for the Muslim renaissance and the promotion of the two nation idea. Under their impact several newspapers and magazines appeared throughout the sub-continent in English, Urdu, Bengali and Sindhi. It was one of these journals namely “Muhazzib” edited by Abdul Halim Sharar that in 1890 proposed Partition of India and migration of populations.
- The annulment of the Partition of Bengal, the Cawnpore Mosque tragedy, the Italo-Turkish War and the Balkan Wars had deep impact on Muslim thinking that resulted in the emergence of militant journalist-cum-politicians like Zafar Ali Khan, Muhammad Ali and Abul Kalam Azad. Their journals, “Zamindar”, “The Comrade” and “Hamdard” and “Al-Hilal” created political consciousness among the people. Among these Muhammad Ali was the.major exponent of the two-nation theory who regarded Hindu-Muslim Problem, an international rather than a national problem, deserving solution under the International Law. The humorous column in his paper suggested Partition.of the sub-continent on Hindu-Muslim basis in 1913.
- The ideas of separation of Sind, reforms for Baluchistan and re-assertion of the demand for Separate Electorate came in the wake of the unceremonious call-off of the Khilafat Movement. Quite a large number of Muslim papers emerged and their efforts led to the formulation of “Jinnah’s Fourteen Points!” which contained the substance of Pakistan.
- When the Hindu Press bitterly attacked Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal for his historic address at the Allahabad Session of the All India Muslim League, only three Muslim papers namely “Inqilab” and “Muslim Outlook” of Lahore and “Hamdam” of Lucknow gave him full support and demanded the establishment of the Muslim state in the North-West India. The Muslim press in the late thirties gave considerable publicity to the various schemes for Partition and paved the way for the Lahore Resolution of the All India Muslim League.
- In the middle forties emerged “Dawn”, “Morning News”, “Nawai-Qaqt” and other papers which played a notable role in the Pakistan Movement. The two leading journalists of the phase were Altaf Hussain and Hameed Nizami who by their pungent editorials deeply influenced the intelligentiar. The “Pakistan Times”, was the last to come, just six and a half months before independence.