As Urdu press celebrates its lowkey bicentenary this year,it is the perfect time to tribute those who laid its foundation : A Brahmin, a Sikh and their weekly paper “Jam-e-Jahan Numa”
200 years ago,on 27th March 1822, Jam-e-Jahan Numa became the first ever printed newspaper in Urdu language.
This weekly paper was founded by Harihar Dutt famously referred as ‘Father of Urdu journalism in India.’ The editor of this weekly was Munshi Sadasukh Lal from Mirzapur.
Harihar Dutt launched this Urdu weekly at a time when the language wasn’t so popular in Bengal. Little did he know that he was sowing the seed of Urdu journalism.
Harihar Dutta,a Bengali Brahmin was an employee of East India Company. He has keen interest in journalism just like his journalist father, Tara Chand Dutta.
“Jam-e-Jahan Numa” in Persian means world showing Goblet. This pioneer Urdu language weekly was launched in kolkata (then Calcutta). The printer was William Hopskin, a British national and an employee of East India Company.
It was a 3 sheet (6 pages) weekly, issued on every Wednesday. Printed at Mission Press,each page of this weekly was divided into two columns with 22 lines in each column.
Priced at Rs 2 per month, Jam-e-Jahan Numa was the third language newspaper in India after English and Bengali.
All kind of news (both national and international) would publish in Jam-e-Jahan Numa. Be it about scientific invention or extraordinary story of a common man, the weekly duty covered it.
The tone of the newspaper was moderate and it avoided unnecessary controversies. Despite that the weekly wasn’t feeble when it came to supporting and encouraging social and political reforms particularly the abolition of Sati. It also included pictures of prominent personalities and event to attract better understanding of its readers.
Despite the hardwork put in compiling and spreading information, Jam-e-Jahan Numa had its fair share of woes. There was hardly any readership in Urdu among the mostly unlettered masses. Newspaper reading habit hadn’t picked pace in the public in those time.
After sixth issues of Urdu edition, Harihar Dutt converted it into a Persian weekly on May 16, 1822, to attract to attract the elite literate society and academic intelligentsia.
He also dropped East India Company’s insignia as the paper started publishing critiques of the British. The then Chief Secretary of East India Company, William Butterworth Bailey famously quoted that “Jam-e-Jahan Numa could turn into an engine of mischief”
Five years later, Harihar Dutt finally rolled down the curtains but he had already pioneered a tradition of passionate Urdu Journalism that continued to raise voice against imperialism despite their dwindling readership and financial misfortunes.
In the present scenario of hollow nationalism ,Urdu Journalism has been receiving step motherly treatment from its own motherland. Urdu is stereotyped as the Language of Muslim.
It’s either frowned upon or considered an aesthetic prop where as most of its profound founders, editors, publishers involved in Urdu Journalism were non Muslims.
Let’s wrap up with optism that it’s a phase and this too shall pass. Urdu journalism shall stand tall and in equality with its English counterpart.