Mass Communication in Sub Continent


Mass Communication in Sub Continent

 Beginning of Journalism

1.1 Organization
1.2 Conveyance
1.3 Propagation
1.4 Significance

2. First printed newspapers

2.1 Hicky Gazette

2.2 Indian World

2.3 Progress & Development

3. Newspapers of national and regional languages

3.1 Jam-e-Jahan Numa

3.2 Maraat-ul-Akhbar

3.3 Newspapers of regional languages

4. Press Laws                   

4.1 1799-Press Law 4.2 1823-Press Law 4.3 1835-Press Act

5. Urdu Journalism

5.1 Newspapers of Delhi
5.2 Newspapers of Lahore
5.3 Newspapers of Sialkot and Multan
5.4 Specifics of Urdu newspapers

6. Revolution of 1857 & Journalism

6.1 Qanoon-e-Zuban Bandi( Urdu)

6.2 Role of Delhi Newspapers in revolution

6.3 Muslims exclusion from Journalism




In the sub-continent, journalism started with preliminary handwritten news sheets,

prepared by government news-writers during the Muslim rule. They were written,

dated, appeared at regular and frequent intervals. Such news sheets provided the rulers

with information from all corners of the empire, regarding public occurrences, current-events, mischief in societies and hardships faced by the people. From this information, the rulers used to take decisions and plan initiatives to uphold good governance. Indeed, there was a fine established system of surveillance; through the newspapers, rulers were promptly updated of maladministration and mismanagement in the social structure. Brutal and cruel governors were detached of the government and honest officials were encouraged. In short, the early hand- written sheets proved effective social mobilization vehicle to hold peace and contentment in the empires. This is the reason, Muslims ruled for centuries with prestige and prosperity.

1.1 Organization

The initial system of hand-written news sheets, though not well standardized, was instigated on strong foundations during the rule of Delhi emperors. But the legendary Mughal emperors enhanced and strengthened it to the superior degree of excellence. News-writers or stringers were assigned in all the areas of the empire to collect news and assemble it in the paper for the court of King. Most prominent and honest individuals were designated for such posts, they earned good salaries and their appointment or abolition was solely, with the King himself. For this reason, they remained far from the influence of provincial governors and reported whenever necessary, the bitter facts of governors and other officials also. Since, it was possible that the stringers would work for bribes; agents behind them were employed for their surveillance. So, there remained no chance of fake reports. It is safe to say that the idea of free press had surface in the sub-continent.

1.2 Conveyance

At that time, there were no trains or by no means any electric channel. Nonetheless, a first-class postal system existed, that stringers used to send their news sheets to the capital. Muhammad Bin Tughlaq was the first Muslim ruler who resourcefully structured postal system in the Sub-continent. A well-known Arab voyager, Ibn-e-Batutah, quoted that there were two kinds of post. First, thepedestrians post and second through horse-riders. Horse riders trend initiated during the Mughal’s time. Amusingly, the speed of delivery was two hundred and fifty miles a day with horse-riders.

1.3 Propagation

Newspapers from all the corners of the sub-continent, sent to the capital were read aloud in the court for the King. In accordance, he used to give specific instructions. Further more, the court had its own news-writers who covered the daily proceedings of the court and pronounced it the next day. Governors of far- flung provinces also kept their representatives in the court. In this way, all the government officials were kept informed. Above and beyond, essential news for public was overtly announced in the cities from pulpits of mosques or in specially arranged gatherings.

1.4 Significance

It was the supreme intellectual potential of Muslim rulers that they shaped and

established a network of people who provided them news from other lands and hence a

system of assembling news successful started. In short, this communication system

between rulers and ruled helped the government maintain and sustain good

governance. More to the point, it befitted in internal and external security.


With the downfall of Mughal rule, Britain started offensive invasion into the sub- continent. Wherever hatred for British surfaced, people started privately-owned secret handwritten papers in order to induce and stimulate more abhorrence against East India Company. In the revolution of 1857, such papers played an effective role.

2.1 Hicky Gazette

The first ever printing press was set up by the British at Bombay in 1674. In the end of eighteenth century, printing presses were installed at Madras and Calcutta. The first printed newspaper of sub-continent appeared in 1780, with the name of “Hicky Gazette”, published by James August Hicky. The size of that paper was 12″ x 8″ with only 4 pages. For the reason that James Augustus Hicky was against East India Company and always brought forth the corruption of Government, he was soon jailed. But, Hicky continued editing in the jail too. So, in November 1781, a newspaper with name of “India Gazette” was introduced which was pro Government and against Hickey. With this haphazard changing scenario, many new newspapers came on the scene. Some supported the government and others strived for freedom

2.2 Indian World

William Duane was one of those editors who struggled hard for freedom of press. Earlier, he was a fanatical editor of Bengal Journal, but the government violently removed him with force. Soon, he started his own newspaper, “Indian World” which was more authentic and openly critical to East India Company. The British released two consecutive newspapers to combat it, but failed. Interestingly, circulation of Indian World increased more than expectations. It was alarming for the Company and it feared that this Indian paper could get to England and may defame

the Company in England. Now, the Government was looking for the trap. William

Duane once criticized on judiciary; therefore, he was exiled and his investment of thirty thousand was seized by force. He was a valiant journalist. He went to America through England and continued his practice.

2.3 Progress & Development

Within twenty years of the installation of printing press in sub-continent, dozens of (English language) newspapers and periodicals appeared in the cities of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. However readership was limited to British because of the difference of language. These newspapers in general included poetry, tales, and short compositions, translated Persian stories and sometime even the translated odes of native-poets Sadi and Hafiz. Moreover, they brought to light the culture, qualities and mischief of the British residents of that time.



The language of educated people in the sub-continent was Persian. But the British disliked it because it preserved the memories of Muslim’s power of influence afresh. So, they promoted Urdu language and financially assisted in its publication.

3.1 Jam-e-Jahan Numa

First printed Urdu newspaper was “Jam-e-Jahan Numa”, published in Calcutta in 1822 under the supervision of British. Its editor was Munshi Sada Sukh. After some weeks, its language was changed into Persian because the circulation remained extremely low. Later, after two years, it was integrated with a four-page Urdu news sheet for the reason that some of the British officials had learned Urdu where on the other hand people could be mobilizedto use Urdu language. Jam-e- Jahan Numa featured news items from other hand-written news sheets of autonomous states, English newspapers and some of its own.

3.2 Maraat-ul-Akhbar

The first printed Persian newspaper “Marat-ul-Akhbar” appeared in Calcutta in 1822. Its founder and editor was Raja Ram Mohan Raey. He was a spiritual leader of Hindus. He started Bengali newspapers also. His intention to start newspapers in general was to enhance the knowledge of common people and acquaint them with the policies, laws and line of action of the British government. This newspaper had a short life but it was appreciated at the highest degree.

3.3 Newspapers of regional languages

When journalism entered in other parts of sub-continent, several newspapers of regional languages also emerged. For instance, Bengali, Hindi, Gujrati, Marhati and Tamil language newspapers. Thse newspapers included short articles, ephemeral

topics, some illustrations and service articles (classifieds).


Before 1857, the British government promulgated four press laws to curb newspapers. They tried their best to control prevailing press and strived to mold public opinion in favor of the then government. But the endeavors of journalists and editors remained a major barrier in British intentions.

4.1 1799 Press law

First press law was enforced in 1799, the conditions of which made it mandatory to include the name of printer at the end of newspaper, and that the material should have to be get approved from a government official before printing. In other words, suppression-cum-censorship started. Editors and journalists were restricted to write against the government, otherwise they would be exiled or deport. Newspapers accepted this law. However people continued to print aggressive pamphlets against the government. In 1818 censorship was removed and press got liberty. But tensions between the government and newspapers sustained long. Therefore, second law was brought into force.

4.2 1823 Press law

Second press law was promulgated in 1823, which made it compulsory to obtain license before establishing a printing press or a newspaper. Otherwise forfeiture of one thousand rupees would be collected or six months imprisonment would be given or both the punishments at the same time. Newspapers rejected and did not accept this law. Rallies and demonstrations were held, but all the efforts were in vain. Some sacrificed their livelihood and some even exiled. Raja Ram Mohan Raey appealed in a high court for withdrawal of this press law. But not a single demand was noticed. Eventually, Raja Ram Mohan Raey closed all his newspapers in protest. During this difficult time newspapers decided to keep quite.

4.3 1835 Press act

After the annoyance of 1823, newspapers set aside from the politics. Some years passed with silence. When on one hand, newspapers did not create any trouble and on the other hand, a broad minded person, Sir Charles became the Governor General, the relations between Government and press got better. Consequently, press law of 1823 was abolished and a new press act was passed in 1835, according to which just a declaration was required for opening a newspaper. Secondly, the names of printer and publisher were required to be printed on all the pages of newspapers. With this change, press obtained freedom and many newspapers of regional languages came out. Especially, Persian newspapers from Calcutta, Ladhiana, Karachi, Agra, Sakkur and Bombay.


Urdu journalism started with Jam-e-Jahan Numa but in point of fact its history begins from 1836, when the father of Maulana Muhammad Hussain Azad, Maulvi Muhammad Baqar started “Delhi Urdu Akhbar”. After that, a large number of Urdu newspapers emerged in corner-to-corner of the sub-continent. Some significant factors behind the progress of Urdu journalism were that:

a. In 1830, East India Company declared Urdu the official language of small government institutions and court of law. So, the importance of Urdu increased fourfold.

b. After 1835, many newspapers of regional languages came at frontline. Among them Urdu language newspapers were most important because Urdu was the official language.

c. In 1836, Litho-type printing was started. It was more attractive and inexpensive. So the cost of newspapers could be reduced. Consequently, it became easier to start an Urdu newspaper.

d. Government intended to promote Western Studies in the sub-continent. Since, Urdu newspapers were appropriate medium for the purpose, the government used to purchase a certain quantity of newspapers for officials, schools and colleges. This setup financially supported some of the newspapers.

These were the four elements behind the growth and progress of Urdu journalism in sub-continent. Later, many new Urdu papers started in Delhi, Lahore, Sialkot, Multan, Gujaranwala, Gujarat, Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Shimla, Ladhiana, Batala, Amratsar, Agra, Lukhnow, Banaras, Bombay, Breli, Aligarh and Madras. However, Delhi and Lahore are considered to be the mother land of Urdu journalism.

5.1 Newspapers of Delhi

More then a dozen newspapers and periodicals started in Delhi. Comparatively, two were most significant and had a profound effect on the Muslim society. First “Delhi Urdu Akhbar” and second was “Syed-ul-Akhbar”. Delhi Urdu Akhbar continued for twenty one years. Maulvi Muhammad Baqar was its first editor. Later on his son, Maulana Muhammad Hussain Azad took the responsibility. The first page of Delhi Urdu Akbar was used for the activities of Last Mughal Emperor Bahaddur Shah Zafar. Then the movement and actions of British residents and other offcials were included. News from Delhi had special emphasis. Wherever needed, comments were given at the end of the news. This newspaper brought to light the tomfoolery of both British and Emperor’s court. In every issue an ode also was put in. Syed-ul-Akhbar came into being in the year 1837. Its founder was Syed Muhammad Kahan, real brother of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. After nine years, he died in young age and the paper continued in the editorship of Syed Ahmed Khan. But the name of editor was kept concealed. In 1950, Syed-ul-Akhbar was closed because of financial problems.

5.2 Newspapers of Lahore

First Urdu newspaper of Lahore was “Koh-e-Noor”, started in 1850. And, continued for more than half a century. Munshi Harsukh Raey was its founder who was specially called by the British after invasion in Punjab. He was financially supported by British in establishing a printing press and a newspaper. As a matter of fact this fact it was a pro Government newspaper, but keeping the idea of freedom under the umbrella of force, it sometime criticized the government also. While in technical quality, no doubt, it was a unique paper with matchless enhancements. It provided not only news and views, but enormous educative material for educators. Koh-e-Noor had largest circulation in all the Urdu papers of the sub-continent. In fifty years of its existence, a various editors worked for its betterment. The second chief newspaper of Lahore was “Darya-e-Noor” which could not continue because it openly condemned the British rule. It had a very short but lively life.

5.3 Newspapers of Sialkot and Multan

After Lahore, the next important centre of Urdu journalism was Sialkot. Where, Munshi Dewan Chand started newspaper for the first time. He released six newspapers before the revolution of 1857. Among which “Chashma-e-Faiz” and “Victoria Paper” were very famous. Victoria paper continued for fifty years. It is interesting to know that Sialkot had the largest circulation of newspapers. There are two main reasons, given by scholars, for increased distribution of newspapers in Sialkot. First is that the literacy and education acquisition was emphasized upon by the British. Secondly, the East India Company implemented juristic education reforms. One example is that of the large construction of various Schools. As a result literacy rate increased quite great and the readership of newspapers spread throughout Sialkot. Where Multan is concerned, two or three newspapers started in the city before 1857. For the most part “Riyaz-e-Tor” was a famous paper. Its editor Munshi Mehdi Hasan became target of British atrocities; he was sentenced for seven years imprisonment.

5.4 Specifics of Urdu newspapers

Generally, in early stages of journalism, the readership of Urdu newspapers was not very remarkable. Statistical information tells that Koh-e-Noor had highest circulation with three hundred and fifty copies a day. Syed-ul-Akhbar had the lowest circulation of only twenty seven copies. Majority of the newspapers produced nearly fifty copies per day. On the other hand, some papers even sold two hundred copies because the British used to take fifty to hundred copies for officials and schools on permanent basis.

Things to remember about Urdu press:

a)The reason behind low readership was that most newspapers at that time

cost fifty cents (8 aaney) per copy. We can safely assume that only well-off

people were able to afford. Secondly, literacy rate was considerably low.

b) At least forty customers were required to make self-govern (independent) a


c)Regional, national and international news were published. News of

educational reforms had exceptional emphasis in Urdu newspapers.

d)Source of news were other hand-written news sheets of emperor’s stringers,

English newspapers and contemporary Urdu and Persian newspapers.

e) Editorials were not included. Wherever necessary, notes or comments were given at the end of columns. Sometime, editor’s suggestions and interpretations were also put in under separate column. Newspapers were not very goof-looking or impressive. Pictures were not used, however, a little bit; hand-made pictures were printed sometimes.

f)Newspapers had no well arrange material in order or sequence. Koh-e-Noor

was the only Urdu newspaper, in which material was arranged in a definite series. One most enhanced quality of Koh-e-Noor was printing of annual Index, though which concerned news items could be easily searched out.

g) Not all Urdu newspapers criticized the government.



To identify with the role of journalism and journalists in the revolution of 1857, it

is necessary to go through some important myths.

a) There were dailies as well as weekly English newspapers, but their owners were either the British or Anglo Indians. Naturally, they were the patrons of British rule and their sympathies were with Britain. If any paper ever criticized the government, it was considered as personal problem between the members of a same social group.

b) All the newspapers of regional languages were weekly. Their collective publication was six thousand. If it is assumed that ten persons read one paper, then the total readership may be sixty thousand.

c) Most of the Urdu language newspapers were owned by non-Muslims. But

comparatively all the papers of Delhi were in the hands of Muslims.

d) Likewise non-Muslim papers, Muslim newspapers did reporting in a moderate way with temperateness and precautions. Wherever denigration against British was observed, a few sentences were also written in praise of Britain.

e) In the beginning of 1857, the political scenario took quite haphazard shape. English newspapers could not even tolerate two or three Urdu papers critical to the British rule. Consequently, they aggressively appealed for limitations and strict restrictions on the national and regional newspapers. When the revolution started, they yelped that it was solely the result of freedom of national press. So, Lord Canning enforced a law which in Urdu is called “Qanoon-e-Zuban Bandi”.

6.1 Qanoon-e-Zuban Bandi( Urdu)

Through this ordinance, license custom was made obligatory in order to start or keep running a printing press or newspaper. It allowed government to confiscate any license from anyone at any time. As if printing press or newspaper, or both could immediately be stopped. In addition, it let government to impose censorship on the newspapers. This law was equal for regional & national as well as English language newspapers, journals, periodicals or gazettes. It is regarded as the destructive era of British atrocities on press and journalistic practice in sub- continent. Following the law, the government initiated an operation against the press, regional & national newspapers and printing presses were crushed. Note that, only those, English newspapers were targeted which were owned by the natives of sub-continent, not those which were in hands of British or Anglo Indians. Indeed, Anglo Indian newspapers were permitted to write anything in agitation of the natives. So, they wrote that Delhi should be demolished, Jama Mosque should be destroyed and a church should be constructed over there. They asked to implement-compulsory the study of New Testament in schools and colleges. Even they suggested imposing tax on every individual of eighteen to sixty years of age. More to the point they meant that only Christians should rule. This was the role and absurdity of English newspapers which later sparked the development of press from scrap.

6.2 Role of Delhi newspapers in revolution

Till 1857 revolution, British could not invade Delhi owing to the fact that it was full of sympathizers and patrons of Bahad-ur-Shah Zafar. The newspapers of Delhi made every effort to sustain the revolution. The endeavors and sacrifices of Delhi Urdu Akhbar, Sadiq-ul-Akhbar and Siraj-ul-Akhbar (the court gazette of Bahad- ur-Shah Zafar) could never be forgotten. When the revolution ended, these newspapers also diminished. Owner of Delhi Urdu Akhbar, Maulvi Muhammad Baqar was killed and arrest warrant of (his son) Maulana Muhmmad Hussain Azad was issued. Editor of Sadiq-ul-Akhbar, Jameel-ud-Din faced a trial and eventually he was sentenced for three years imprisonment.

6.4 Muslims exclusion from journalism

Since Muslims were at forefront of Freedom Movement, they became the central target of British carnage. A massive bloodshed emerged during the terrible incidents of 1857. As far as journalism is concerned, Muslims were detached of journalistic practice and their newspapers were banned. Some newspapers even closed their business themselves, in fear of the British atrocities. In 1853, there were thirty five vibrant Urdu newspapers. In 1857 there remained only twelve, in which, just one newspaper was owned by any Muslim. This catastrophe completely isolated the Muslims from journalism in Sub-continent. But in the years ahead, Muslim press developed from morsel and struggled for the independence with our great leaders. At the time of independence, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah was editor of his own newspaper DAWN.

Conclusion & comments

It is safe to say that journalism had its roots in the sub-continent since the Muslim rule. A perfect communication system did exist when the British invaded the sub- continent. It is true that British established printing presses and promoted literacy, but it was the endeavors of natives of sub-continent, that journalism prospered throughout from corner to corner. As journalism flourished, many broad-minded people of sub-continent entered into the arena of journalism. With the development of press, not only stringers, news-writers and editors enhanced their journalistic practice and skills, but an audience responsive to a mass press took birth. In short, it was the mutual co-ordination between press and readership, which paved the way to act upon the right of freedom of speech. Being the rulers, British supported the idea of free press but with certain limitations. They never tolerated criticism which was the major source of bringing forth their sins and mismanagement. Historians tell that British crushed printing presses, closed several newspapers and jailed or exiled some of those brilliant journalists who remained barrier in fulfillment of their intentions. However, please remember that in spite of British resistance or more exactly atrocities, the courageous editors and their press didn’t stopped but continued to acquaint people with the conspiracies and awful determinations of the then British government. Even after the exclusion of Muslims from journalism in 1857, the Muslim press grew from scrap and fruitfully served the cause of independence.


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