The Telangana Urdu Working Journalists Federation (TUWJF), led by its charismatic president, M. A. Majid, hosted a hugely successful national conference in Hyderabad last Sunday. This heralds a marvelous milestone in the journey of Urdu journalism in India.
Anjani Kumar, the Director-General of Police (DGP) of Telangana State, provided food for thought on the complex dimensions of the relationship between the police and the press. He recognized and emphasized the vital role of journalists as architects in shaping public opinion. Having done India proud with his meritorious peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1998–1999 for the United Nations, Anjani Kumar is known for his Gandhian thought and understanding. The man of peace, Anjani Kumar, implored the assembled, mostly Urdu journalists, for a positive relationship between the police and the press based on mutual respect and understanding. Kumar stressed the critical importance of objective reporting and a balanced and responsible news presentation. Anjani Kumar pointed out the influence of journalism on the young generation.
The diligent DGP suggested that journalists have a role to play in directing the minds of youth in a positive direction. He noted that a small spark can turn into a significant fire, but conversely, a major incident, if handled correctly, can be contained. Anjani Kumar’s heart beats for India, and it was evident when Anjani Kumar stressed the need for patriotism and sacrifice. He wanted everybody to place the country’s and the state’s needs above personal or family needs. Addressing the relationship between the police and the media, Anjani Kumar acknowledged the role of the police department’s Public Relations Officers (PROs) in sharing information. He appealed to the media for understanding when certain details cannot be revealed in the early stages of investigations. He observed that any premature disclosure could alert criminals.
It is significant to note that, as Hyderabad Police Commissioner, Anjani Kumar won a national award from the President of India for security management for the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Sriram Karri, Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle, in his impactful and inspiring address, called upon journalists to act as society’s ever-vigilant guardians. He stimulated the Urdu journalists to fearlessly and impartially pursue their noble profession. He pointed out their vital role in upholding the cherished principles of democracy. Known for his soul-stirring editorials in the Deccan Chronicle, the erudite novelist, columnist, and journalist par excellence, Sriram Karri, does not mince his words and makes a lasting impression. He asked Urdu journalists to ‘question’ fearlessly and be prepared for consequences, if any. Shed light on corruption and wrongdoing and voice the concerns of the public at large, Sriram Karri advised the Urdu journalists. He impressed the August gathering by coming and sitting in the audience much before his turn came to address the journalists. TUWJF president M. A. Majid, speaking to BeyondHeadlines, disclosed that he was very touched by Sriram Karri’s humility and that he was very grounded despite his tall stature in journalism. M. A. Majid urged the Telangana Government to consider favorably the resolutions passed at the TUWJF Conference, which were delivered to Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao’s office by TUWJF general secretary Ghous Mohiuddin.
Both Sriram Karri and I have a Deccan Chronicle connection. My debut in journalism was at the Deccan Chronicle, and I moved towards journalistic excellence under the mentorship of P N V Nair initially and M J Akbar later.
Former minister of undivided Andhra Pradesh and senior Congress leader Mohammed Ali Shabbir made a passionate plea for the Telangana government to initiate action to reinvigorate and revitalize Urdu journalism in the state. He expressed his dismay over the decline in Urdu readership. He underlined the urgency of fostering Urdu readership at the most basic levels. He highlighted the importance of incorporating Urdu language instruction in primary schools to inculcate the Urdu language’s rich cultural heritage in young minds at an impressionable age.
Academicians also made significant contributions to the national Urdu Conference organized by TUJWF. They showcased candid viewpoints on the challenges and opportunities faced by Urdu journalism today. Prof. Padmaja Shaw, the former Head of the Department of Journalism at Osmania University, impressed the audience with her deep academic insights, while Prof. Mohd Fariyad, the Head of the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism at MANUU, brought his journalistic exuberance to the deliberations. Indian Journalists’ Union (IJU) Secretary Y. Narendra Reddy displayed his warm fraternal feelings and declared his solidarity with the cause championed by the TUJWF in addressing the various challenges faced by Urdu journalists. He made a firm resolve to advocate for the cause of Urdu journalism both at the national and state levels. He assured that he would ensure that Urdu receives attention and bolsters its comeuppance.
This unparalleled conference brought together distinguished personalities, including veteran journalists, politicians, and academics, from different states. The aim was to provide an active platform for meaningful dialogues regarding the future projections and uphill challenges faced by Urdu journalism today. A need is felt for nurturing collaborations and never-before-seen initiatives to uplift Urdu journalism on the Indian horizon. Hundreds of Urdu journalists made a beeline to the happening Telangana State from different states. The conference served as a torchbearer in addressing grave obstacles and zooming up the advancement of Urdu journalism with a zing to make it king.
Eminent personalities, including former Director of Urdu Academy Prof. S.A. Shukoor, Small Newspapers Association President Ranga Sai, Resident Editor of Deccan Chronicle Sriram Karri, Congress leader Sameer Waliullah, TDP leader Ali Bin Ibrahim Masqati, and BRS leader Moid Khan, also shared their thoughts during the conference.
Distinguished journalists such as Editor Gawah, Urdu Weekly, Dr. Fazil Hussain Pervez, FM Saleem, Ather Moin, Shaik Ahmed Ali, Mohd Amjed Ali, Dr. Asif Ali, Khaleel Farhad, and many others also spoke on a wide range of assigned topics. Their expertise and knowledge brought valuable perspectives to the discussions, enriching the overall discourse.
The conference adopted several critical resolutions aimed at improving and safeguarding the environment of Urdu journalism. These resolutions covered a wide range of issues. These included journalistic accreditation, diverse representation, social security measures, healthcare provisions, and the preservation of journalistic freedom. One significant resolution focused on and urged a review of Government Order (GO) No. 239 issued by the Information and Public Relations Department, Government of Telangana. The conference proposed the constitution of a representative committee comprising diverse segments of media, including Urdu, Telugu, and English-language newspapers, electronic media, digital media, and independent journalists. This committee would be responsible for drafting modernized guidelines for the issuance of accreditation cards and ensuring fair and transparent procedures. Speaking to Beyond Headlines, local media house Ind. Today correspondent Shaik Naseer Ahmed lamented that more than 4,000 applications are pending with the Information Commissioner for the issue of accreditation cards. He urged the government to expedite the process.
The Urdu conference also highlighted the severe repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic on journalism and proposed adjustments in the criteria for accreditation. It recommended lowering the required number of newspaper pages to eight for accreditation consideration and extending this privilege to C-category small newspapers in each district. This would ensure that the impact of the pandemic on journalism is duly acknowledged and accommodated.
The need for social security measures was emphasized at the Urdu conference. It rightly proposed the introduction of a journalist’s pension scheme. It also advocated for the inclusion of journalists in the newly announced health scheme for government employees and pensioners, ensuring access to comprehensive healthcare. The welfare of journalists and their families should receive priority attention. The Urdu conference recommended the renewal of previously issued health cards and extending support to families in need.
The conference proposed earmarking an annual advertising budget specifically for smaller media organizations to provide financial support for journalistic initiatives. This initiative would ensure regular financial aid to Urdu publications and empower them to sustain their operations and growth. Additionally, the conference requested substantial financial relief for the families of deceased journalists and those requiring medical treatment.
The TUWJF Conference proposed a fee concession for children of journalists studying in corporate institutions. It sought the allocation of a grant of Rs. 25 lakh for aspiring students seeking overseas education, providing opportunities for academic excellence.
The TUWJF Conference has laid a pathway. It is for the journalists from English, Telugu, and Urdu media to unite for the cause of journalism and question the government of the day with their objective reporting. Those doing lap journalism (Godi media) are doing a disservice to the nation. Stop parroting the authorities’ authoritarian narrative. The Government of Telangana must walk the talk on the welfare of journalists and honor all the promises made to Urdu journalists at the earliest!