If the river flowing out of the mountains has flow, excitement and enthusiasm, then no obstacle in the way can stop it. It has to reach its final destination – the sea. 5 years ago, on June 24, 2017, when I first shared the news of Hafiz Junaid’s lynching, even I didn’t know that my initiative would complete 1000 days without a break on March 25, 2020 and today will be completing full five years. I started working 7 days a week, 365 days a year and took no break – even on Eid, Holi or Diwali. My sole purpose was to fight fake news and create awareness in the society. I wanted my friends and family to go through at least the morning newspapers. People not only appreciated the idea but also gave me an overwhelming response. Journalists, writers, academicians, politicians, businessmen, lawyers, social workers from all walks of life joined my WhatsApp news network.
These 5 years have given me many experiences. Most of my friends encouraged me. Even those who did not take it seriously initially, began taking interest in it when people started talking about it. When I completed 365 days, people started noticing and appreciating my work, and on completing 2 years, people started celebrating it.
Mr. Siraj-ud-Din Qureshi, President of India Islamic Cultural Centre and his team organized a spectacular and grand felicitation on July 26, 2019 at BS Abdur Rehman Auditorium, which was fully packed with my loved ones from all over the country and abroad. Another felicitation ceremony was held in Delhi’s Zakir Bagh on the completion of 800 days. On the occasion of the completion of 850 days, I was invited to Dubai for a grand felicitation by my beneficiaries, friends and well-wishers. On the completion of 900 days, another felicitation was held in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh and many such programs were held in between. However, no major celebration was possible on completion of 1000 days, on 25th March, 2020, due to the rise in Covid cases. So, I quietly celebrated this historic day at home with my wife and children.
Due to the extreme pressure of working for 1000 consecutive days without any break, I became ill and decided to take a break. Former Chief Election Commissioner of India Mr. S.Y. Quraishi called me and advised- “the idea of taking a short break is fine but a long break will make you restless”. After just 2 weeks, I started scanning the morning newspapers once again.
Every day is a news day
Since the news never takes a holiday, so how could I? For me, Sunday, Monday, Eid, Holi, Diwali and Christmas, every day is a news day. Through this initiative I have tried to bring so many scattered stories of our interest from various offline and online media outlets to a single platform that has emerged and known as a non-commercial platform. I always tried to present the news without any prejudice. My eyes always look for news that is authentic, relevant, ones that invites debates, and can open the minds of people. This platform is not affiliated with any political party, religious organization or a corporate house.
My passion for the news has been such that despite ups and downs in daily life, emergencies and deaths, severity of seasons, illness, hospitalization, travel, festivals, parental illness, children’s needs, business, nothing could stop me. I worked 365 days a year, without interruption or excuse to keep people informed. I did this from my children’s schools, from the hospital where my mother was undergoing surgery, from the Eidgah where my time of 8 o’clock in the morning used to clash with the time of Eid-e- Namaz. In 2019, when I lost my cousin in a road accident, I had to return to my hometown, but even in this emergency, I did my morning news service at the earliest opportunity. My wife and I were in Europe in August, 2018 to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary. From London to Paris and from Switzerland to Rome, 16 days, from 10 countries I did this without a break and that too at 8 o’clock sharp in the morning according to Indian time. In October 2019, when I was on a visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), from there also, I broadcasted news clippings at 8 o’clock in the morning according to Indian time for 10 consecutive days. Friends and well-wishers organized a grand felicitation in Dubai and sumptuous receptions and dinners in Sharjah.
At the end of 900 days, my health started deteriorating. The stress of getting up at 5 o’clock in the morning and working for 5-6 hours straight, invited many health issues. On reaching 985 days, I became a patient of hypertension, palpitation, and many such ailments. I had to be admitted to Holy Family and Apollo in an emergency three times. The doctor at Apollo Hospital told my wife that I could have had a brain hemorrhage or a heart attack if there was a little delay in reaching the hospital. Many of my friends who used to give compliments for my good health were now sympathetic.
In addition to high blood pressure, palpitations and sinusitis, my back pain was so severe that I had difficulty in picking up morning newspapers lying in my courtyard. There was a time when I felt like something will happen to me at 8 O’clock in the morning. Although, I believed that if something happens does happen to me, I would not blame anyone because this initiative and the decision to continue it vigorously like this was my own. No one asked me to do this work every day without a break, no one asked me to do it singlehandedly, no one asked me to do this work for free and no one forced me to do this work at any cost at exactly 8 o’clock in the morning without a delay of a second.
The larger the network of this service, the greater its impact. Many clippings go viral and reach millions of people around the world. An example of this is Padma Shri Shareef Chacha, the veteran social worker of Ayodhya. He was hospitalized and was in a critical condition. I shared his story on my network, which made people aware of his severe illness. People came forward and helped him financially. Earlier, a clip of a promising young sprinter from a very poor family named Nisar Ahmed went viral and many people came forward to help him. Recently, the story of 22 children of a Mumbai madrassa passing the SSC exam went viral, and thousands of people are still sharing it.
Impact of the service
One of the major positive results of this service is the major change in people’s attitudes towards sharing and forwarding everything they receive on the WhatsApp. Many friends say that they are now more careful while sharing any news. They check the authenticity of the news sources. Most users of my news clippings say that they now read and forward only clippings that are authentic.
When I started the news clipping service, I did not intend to set a world record for largest news clippings sharing on social media, nor was I aiming at winning any awards. My only purpose was to contribute in creating a well-informed society where people themselves can differentiate between a fake story and an authentic one. I have got a collection of over 50,000 news clippings from all leading English, Urdu and Hindi newspapers. This is a huge amount of data that is now a living history.
From Day 1, this initiative has been purely non-commercial. Many people came to me with lot of business proposals in the early days of this service but my passion never allowed it to become a source of livelihood and my mind never strayed from the goal of creating awareness in the society. I wanted to provide this data to my journalist friends, authors, research scholars, UPSC and other students preparing for competitive exams absolutely free of cost.
My news clippings are shared by millions of people around the world every day from morning to evening, but I am satisfied that none of my stories have caused any controversy during such a long journey. In the fifth year of this service, Congress leader and Member of Parliament Dr. Shashi Tharoor joined my network and appreciated my efforts, saying “the selection of news clippings is very good and I find it extremely useful especially when travelling”. Recently, former Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jang Sahib wrote, “I have no words to thank you. Frankly, you make my day!! Enormous selfless service, so unique.” Many TV reporters and senior print journalists say that these news clippings set their agenda for the whole day in the morning and their work becomes easier. A lecturer from Aligarh in my network says that after reading these news clippings, he teaches his students in a better way and speaks better than others in discussions on current affairs in the forums. Many people have developed a passion for reading and learning Urdu through these news clippings.
This work of News Clippings has given me unconditional love, endless acceptance and unimaginable recognition from all over the world. Sometimes I feel that the love and affection of the people is greater than my work.
After delving into the depths of the news for so long, I have come to the conclusion that even if people create excitement through fake news and take advantage of it, they are soon exposed and their reputation is tarnished. Writing and spreading the truth enhances the dignity of a journalist and a responsible citizen. Diamond may cut diamond, but fake news can only be countered by truth and honesty – because majority of people still like constructive and positive news.
Now that this initiative for creating awareness in the society has taken the shape of a movement, I urge the youth of every city to come forward and scan at least two or three newspapers and select a few important stories and share them on your social media network. People will keep sharing fake and alternative news but you should only share authentic and positive news. This small contribution of yours will not only fight against fake news but will also play a very important role in creating a well-informed society.
( Shafique ul Hasan’s email id is firstname.lastname@example.org. He can also be contacted by dialing +91 98110 87581 )