Birth of Urdu Journalism in the Indian Subcontinent

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Discussing the difficulties in tracing the developments in the language press, J. Natarajan, in his pioneering and famous History of Indian Journalism, said that “an important impediment” was that no “coherent connected” record of progress and growth of the Press was available in each of the languages. The case of Urdu Press, which is the second oldest language press of the Sub-continent after Bengali (the mother tongue of Bengal), and the first in the rest of India, is no exception. Its observers and researchers have resorted to premises, hypotheses and even oversight wherever they could not lay their hands on some definitive record. But the field is not without omissions. Jam-I-Jahan Numa, the first printed Urdu newspaper of the Subcontinent, is an outstanding example of oversight. Those who had written about it had dismissed it as an attendant of East India Company’s Administration merely because it carried the insignia of the British Government in its masthead for the first six years of its long existence. This assumption has been effectively defused by Mr. Gurbachan Chandan, a former head of the Urdu Desk in G.O.I’s, Press Information Bureau, in his 248-page Urdu book Jam-i-Jahan Numa,Urdu Sahafat ki Ibtida. He spent over two years in researching the particulars of the book whose original record lay buried in the National Archives of India, New Delhi and the Oriental Section of the former British Library, London. On the basis of his findings, Mr. Chandan says, “the very first brick of the edifice of Urdu Journalism was laid amiss by its historians who dismissed this firster as of no consequence.” He has traced and vastly quoted from an official “review” of the paper, prepared by the then Chief Secretary of the Government, Mr. William Butterworth” Bayley who found “Jam-i-Jahan Numa” to be capable of turning into “an engine of serious mischief”. A product of deep research, the book, published by Maktaba-i-Jamia Ltd., New Delhi, brings out, for the first time,...
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