Several months ago I had written a post carrying an appeal for financial support for an Urdu journalist, Shirin Dalvi, to start a new Urdu news website. Dalvi was dismissed from her job as editor of an Urdu newspaper and was forced to go hiding due to attacks on her by Islamic fundamentalists.
Two years ago, Shireen Dalvi, ex-editor of the Lucknow-based Urdu newspaper Avadhnama’s Mumbai edition had to quit her job because she reprinted a Charlie Hebdo cartoon of Prophet Mohammad after the terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine. She is back now with an online portal which she claims has more progressive outlook as opposed to other Urdu publications.
The website launch of www.urdunewsexpress.com was held on Saturday in Bandra and was attended by Urdu journalists and social activists. “The website will focus on truth, news and opinions. The coverage will not be specific to one community,” said Dalvi who got to see one sided coverage from Urdu media during the Charlie Hebdo issue
“Publishing the cartoon was not a conscious decision. It was my fault as an editor that I didn’t notice to remove it. I stayed in a car for ten days as people were enraged. At the same time, during this journey I have been supported by some people who helped me lauch this website. Thadomal Shahani Engineering College. (TSEC) has given me permission to work from their premises if needed,” said Dalvi
After she reprinted the Charlie Hebdo cartoon, five FIRs were filed across the city and state against her for “outraging religious sentiments with malicious intent”.
The single mother of two was left with no source of income. No other Urdu publication was willing to hire her. The court proceedings added to the financial strain, which was partially eased by two NGOs. She survived on translation work, a few talks offered by All India Radio and selling personal items like jewellery.
The 10 days after the cartoon appeared in print were especially difficult, Dalvi said. The arrest warrant had been issued and she was yet to procure interim bail. “I had to leave home because staying back would have meant getting arrested,” she said. “We lived out of a car. We would drive around in the daytime, park the car wherever we felt safe to take a nap, eat at hotels,” Dalvi recounted.
Hindustan Roznama’s editor, Sarfaraz Arzoo said, “A women editor heading Urdu news website is a good news for male dominated Urdu journalism because it projects progressive thinking. It’s important to look at issues like triple talaq from the perception of women journalist. I have supported Dalvi since the day the cartoon went widely available on the net; why was only one newspaper targeted.”
On the web portal, Dalvi said, “We will focus on world news but also want to have a lot more local news,” adding that there will be a focus on education and health. .
The new venture, Dalvi said, would allow her more flexibility as the small team of journalists working with her are all her “well-wishers and those who stood by me in that difficult time”.
The story of Shirin Dalvi shows us that never say die attitude and fighting spirit will triumph if combined with generosity of freethinking public.