Death of Urdu Nasheman Weekly and its possible resurrection

    By Shaik Zakeer Hussain,,

    Bengaluru: Readers of Nasheman Weekly, the country’s largest selling Urdu weekly, woke last Sunday to the news that the paper’s management had decided to shut down the newspaper, after successfully running it for more than five decades.

    Founded in 1962 by prominent Urdu journalist Usman Asad, Nasheman at its peak had, a circulation of 3 lac; a feat hardly matched by any of its rivals.

    A lifelong activist, Usman Asad had started his career as a journalist, at the daily Pasban newspaper and later moved on to be its manager. However, an inside urge to start a paper on his own, lead to the creation of Nasheman. Later, he invited Ameerulla Nizami, who would himself go on to become a celebrated name in Urdu journalism to join the paper, he believed would be nothing less than a revolution.

    The weekly was so popular in its heydays that during the creation of Bangladesh, readers bought it for Rs. 50 per copy.

    Published from Bengaluru, Karnataka, the paper was circulated not only in India but also abroad. Copies of it were shipped to countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and even Pakistan. “There was a time, when places had shortage of water, but not of Nasheman,” says Rizwan Asad, the weekly’s editor and eldest son of its founder.

    Recalling an event he says, “I was travelling in a train, along with some of my journalist colleagues, when it stopped at the station in Chennai and to our absolute astonishment, the first thing we saw was a man selling Nasheman, then we saw the same thing happen in Andhra Pradesh and then again at Kolkata station.” That’s the legacy of Nasheman, he says proudly.

    Then how did this newspaper, whose founding editor was jailed thrice during Indira Gandhi’s tenure, as political retribution come to this shattering demise? “It was due to unavoidable circumstances,” says Rizwan diplomatically, who recently contested in the Karnataka assembly elections from the Shivajinagar constituency unsuccessfully.

    “The major stake holders in the newspaper were my brother and mother, who in my absence took this drastic step,” he says. He then lamented that his brother, who is younger to him, is not a journalist and did not understand the value, the newspaper played in igniting public minds. He also blames the plummeting readership of Urdu language.

    Urdu, he says, is not read anymore, “People feel ashamed to be seen reading an Urdu paper”. Speaking from his experience, Rizwan says that there is a lack of interest in the language, “people feel it is archaic and not a mark of future.” And this lackadaisical attitude towards the language, he feels, keeps advertisers away from Urdu newspapers and magazines, which has an effect on its circulation, as publishers cannot afford to print more and this in turn has an adverse effect on the quality of journalism, as papers cannot afford to hire good reporters and writers. “It’s a vicious cycle, where everyone is to be blamed” he says.

    Most Urdu papers, Rizwan says, do not have reporters and as a result, most of their content is a reprint from other media sources. “There are some papers, who only print, when they get ads from political parties and when they don’t get ads, they don’t print,” this way he says many of them, make a lot of money.

    Nasheman, according to him, however was a class apart. Written wholly by him and Ameerulla Nizami, who passed away early this month, the paper used to publish analysis of current events and focus was on national and international issues.

    Whether it is the state of Urdu readership, the demise of its longtime assistant editor, misunderstanding among family members, or other reasons, since the shutdown however, his phone has not stopped ringing. Readers, well-wishers, friends and relatives continue to call to check the status of the newspaper and the reason behind the decision. “I feel ashamed to go on streets, as everyone who recognizes me, asks the same question,” he says.

    So is this the death of Nasheman, as we all know it? “Absolutely not, this newspaper was the legacy of my father and I see it as my duty to carry on his legacy”. Rizwan says he will resurrect Nasheman again.

    “I regret the fact that, I let my readers and supporters down. Though not actually responsible for its shut down, I take the moral responsibility for it and want to assure everyone that, the paper will be started again,” he says.

    Rizwan Asad is all set to launch Nasheman Weekly in October this year. For now, he is looking for enthusiastic journalists and writers to join him in his endeavor. He says, “All who are interested can contact me.”

    Contact number of Rizwan Asad, Editor: 9844019267