Muslim paper takes up Hindu cause, furthers oneness

By Asit Srivastava, IANS,

Lucknow : Don’t kill cows and don’t eat beef – that’s the message of harmony a Muslim editor in Uttar Pradesh has been sending out to the community since 1998 when he began a newspaper to bridge divides in the communally sensitive state.

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The Daastaan-e-Awadh, which used to be in Urdu but is now in Hindi to reach to more readers, is relentlessly pursuing its tagline of being ‘a messenger of communal harmony, democratic and secular values’.

The six-page weekly newspaper published from Lucknow has been carrying in virtually every issue articles calling upon Muslims to join hands against the slaughter of cows that are revered by Hindus and associated with Lord Krishna.

And the man behind it is 49-year-old Abdul Waheed.

“From news reports pertaining to politics, business, sports and other fields, we do ensure to carry at least a write-up on the importance of cows in an edition. In such articles, we appeal to Muslims not to get directly or indirectly involved in killing of cows that are considered sacred in Hinduism,” the Daastaan-e-Awadh editor told IANS.

“In our articles, we also condemn killing of cows and even term it anti-Islamic by referring to the basic teaching of Islam that says no one has the right to disrespect religious sentiments of anyone…

“In fact, in the write-ups, Muslims are also reminded about their task to protect sacred entities of different religions,” Waheed added.

This is a campaign that the newspaper began in 1998 itself when it was launched. It has continued it since.

In the latest edition, for instance, Waheed, the author of most of the pieces on the issue, has written on how there was a ban on cow slaughter in the Mughal era.

“Several Mughal emperors, besides Haider Ali and Tipu Sultan, had made cow slaughter and beef eating an offence…The emperors did that for communal harmony,” said Waheed.

“Despite a ban on sale of beef in many states of the country, I really feel ashamed when I come across news reports pertaining to those caught by police for killing cows in Uttar Pradesh, where cow slaughter has been banned since 1955. I remember that on several occasions, recovery of cow meat has led to communal tension in various parts of the state,” he added.

Interestingly, Waheed launched Daastaan-e-Awadh as an Urdu weekly but later transformed it into Hindi as he wanted to cater to a large number of readers.

“When the newspaper was published in Urdu, we had a limited number of readership, which in turn was preventing us from reaching those Muslims, particularly those of younger generation, who are not well-versed in Urdu,” said Waheed.

“It was in 2001 that we decided to bring the newspaper in Hindi with the objective of reaching out to more and more people,” he recalled.

Asked what prompted him to launch such a newspaper, Waheed replied, “As a journalist I always wanted to use my writing skills for bridging the Hindu-Muslim divide. It was that desire that prompted me to launch the weekly that besides providing the news could also bring the members of the two communities closer.”

Run by over 20 Muslim employees, Daastaan-e-Awadh that was earlier circulated only in Lucknow now has 10,000 readers in 14 districts of Uttar Pradesh, including Ghaziabad, Bareilly, Faizabad, Azamgarh, Agra and Shahjahanpur.

(Asit Srivastava can be contacted at [email protected])