A bilingual publication that promotes communal harmony -- ‘Aap ki Taaqat’ – was targeted by mobs during the recent Faizabad riots
The recent Faizabad communal riot witnessed the usual religious symbols and shops being targeted in an attempt to disturb the communal amity of the city, which along with Ayodhya has historically been regarded as ‘twin cities’.
But what didn’t find mention in several mainstream discourses was that the vandals also attacked Faizabad based bilingual publication ‘Aap ki Taaqat’, a Hindi-Urdu weekly, which promoted communal harmony and the syncretic traditions of Ganga-Jumna tehzeeb in the city and the nearby regions.
But when the riot engulfed the city on October 24, the office of the publication which since its inception in December 2006, carried the slogan of ‘Hindu-Muslim do bhai, Hindi-Urdu do behen’ on its masthead, was also targeted by the rioting mob. “The attack was in spite of its message of communal harmony or may be because of that,” as its editor Manzar Mehdi puts it.
The newspaper’s office was located on the premise of Chowk Masjid that dates back to 1790 A.D. and every year the mosque used to welcome the goddess Durga procession with floral tributes. The office was gutted in the fire that also consumed other shops in the mosque’s premise.
Condemning the attack, last week, the Press Council of India (PCI) chairman Justice (retd) Markandey Katju constituted a one member PCI committee to probe the incident.
Mr. Mehdi painstakingly highlights the fact that the paper attracts almost 80 per cent advertisement support from the Hindu community.
“To tell you frankly, the paper survived on support from affluent Hindu brothers. The attack first took me by surprise because there was never threat to the paper,” says Mr. Mehdi who runs the paper single-handedly from a one-room office on the first floor of the mosque.
“I have always written about common welfare of the people. People used to read the paper with interest because we ran several special stories highlighting the secular history of the twin cities of Ayodhya and Faizabad,” he adds.
In spite of its rather modest circulation, for the residents of Faizabad the eight-page ‘Aap ki Taaqat’, with four pages each in Hindi and Urdu, was “a flame of communal harmony”.
What has “hurt” Mr. Mehdi, who is also the president of the Urdu Press Association, is the “ambivalence” of the national media. He alleges that the media did not take notice and raise it as an attack on the freedom of the press.
“Why is the media deserting its own, especially a small publication that has become a symbol of intercommunity harmony?” he asks.
Mr. Mehdi said in all likelihood the mob that ransacked his office and then set fire to it was familiar with the paper and knew about the office. But he has not named any one in the FIR.
He regards the attack on the publication as a “setback” in more ways than one. “It was shocking to come to terms with the fact that people can destroy everything and anything in communal frenzy. It will take some time to start the paper again,” he says adding that the paper’s edition which was scheduled for October 29 had to be delayed due to the communal violence.
He mentions the help which has started pouring in from local residents. “I am happy to see the spirit of communal amity back to the city. All the readers of the paper, Hindu, Muslims alike, have contacted me offering their help and support in starting the set up for the paper once again. But I must say it won’t be easy to get it back again. ”