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Sacked Over Charlie Hebdo Caricatures, Urdu Journalist Returns With New Venture

So will her bitter experience mean she would not write as freely as she once did?

Smitha Nair | CNN-News18smitharnair

Updated:September 12, 2016, 6:11 PM IST
Sacked Over Charlie Hebdo Caricatures, Urdu Journalist Returns With New Venture
File image of Urdu journalist Shirin Dalvi

Mumbai: "I would imagine there are people waiting by with a magnifying glass to look for something offensive or provocative in what I write", laughs Shirin Dalvi, confirming that the Urdu News Express, helmed by her will go online in a month.

Harassed, hounded and forced to go underground after 'Awadhnama', the newspaper she was the editor of, reproduced the Charlie Hebdo cover that caricatured the prophet in January 2015, journalist Shirin Dalvi is finding her voice again.

A year and half ago, with 6 FIRs filed against her and a concerted smear campaign underway, Shirin, a single mother of two had been struggling to keep her head above water.

She wrote but very few were willing to publish her. She borrowed from friends, sold her jewelry to keep going.

Lamenting the dismal numbers of women in Urdu journalism, Shirin says she didn't want parents to dissuade their daughters by citing her example.

Koi apni bachchi ko ye missal na de, dekho Shirin Dalvi ka kya haal hua", she says, explaining why she never gave up.

"What would happen to newsrooms if the minority voices get gagged and women are a minority", she asserts, "it is imperative that women write and are read widely’.

Citing the narrative in the community surrounding the Haji Ali matter or the triple talaq PIL in the SC, Shirin says, in matters like gender rights in religion, reform should come from within and for that it is important for women to be part of that debate.

Very few women in Urdu journalism write on substantive issues.

The first woman editor in the history of Urdu journalism, Shirin says male colleagues often found it difficult to come to terms with a woman at the helm, something that could explain the campaign to oust her in the wake of the 'Charlie Hebdo controversy'.

She recounts a time when she was associate editor in the Urdu daily Shahafat and fellow journalists protested that she was fit only to be the DTP operator.

So will her bitter experience mean she would not write as freely as she once did?

Shirin answers that question by recounting what she told a group of young girls while giving a lecture at a women's college in Bhiwandi, Mumbai, "Self-censorship is the worst form of

censorship and one should be conscious to guard against it."


48-year-old Shirin Dalvi , whose family hails from Ratnagiri, Maharashtra was born and raised in Mumbai. Shirin is a DHMS (Diploma in Homoeopathic Medicine and Surgery) but has never practiced homeopathy, except to treat her children for common ailments.

Shirin started writing when she was in class 8. She wrote children’s stories for Urdu newspapers Inquilab and Urdu Times. She later graduated to writing on women's issues and politics.

In 1990 she joined the Urdu daily Hindustan, the newspaper she says was her journalism school. After a long stint here, she joined Shahfat and then in July 2014 became editor of Avadhnama, a position she had to relinquish following the controversy over the reproduction of the Charlie Hebdo Prophet caricature.

Avadhnama's Mumbai edition shut down in the wake of that row. Shirin is a single mother.

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| Edited by: Smrithin Satishan
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