By Special Correspondent
New Delhi: The Press Club of India (PCI) sparked an unnecessary controversy by rejecting a felicitation programme, which was being organized by the All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat on 29 September on its premises, in the eleventh hour. The decision not only temporarily triggered differences among the PCI members but also caused huge embarrassment for the Muslim body, which represents over a dozen prominent Muslim organizations in the country.
The controversy started when some journalists sought to know the rationale behind the felicitation programme, which was to be held in the PCI on 29 September. As a matter of fact, the Press Club had never witnessed any felicitation event organized by religious or cultural organizations. Traditionally, greetings and pleasantries were limited to the club members or some media organizations. Thus, the involvement of a Muslim body representing religious and socio-cultural minority organizations sparked curiosity among club members, with many strongly objecting to the move.
Talking to Bhadas4Media, senior journalist Anil Chamadia said that he raised objections through a letter, highlighting that it was not customary for religious institutions or organizations to welcome officials of the Press Club of India. Chamadia told the media outlet, which monitors development in news organizations, “A friend has sent me an invitation letter for a program on 30 September 2023 at the Press Club. If the information about the programme mentioned in the letter is correct then I am registering my objection. There has been no tradition of welcoming the officials of the Press Club by institutions and organizations associated with any religion.” He urged the management committee to cancel the programme. Following this, claimed Chamadia, the PCI informed about the cancellation of the programme.
Notably, Gautam Lahiri’s panel was elected in the recent Press Club elections, held in 23 September. Only the panel supported by Anil Chamadia stood against him, whose presidential candidate was Prashant Tandon. Gautam Lahiri and his panel have always had problems regarding Anil Chamadia.
‘Disgrace to Muslim body’
Internal sources from the PCI indicated that during a meeting to discuss whether to accept the invitation from the Muslim body, a couple of members from the Gautam Lahiri panel toed Chamadia’s line. However, the panel decided to accept the invitation.
Following this, the AIMMM started sending an invite to the PCI which triggered mixed responses, with many privately ignoring it or objecting to the move. One of the PCI members sharply reacted, questioning Lahiri for the luncheon-cum-felicitation event. Below is the WhatsApp message of a PCI member Faraz Ahmad.
Faraz Ahmad’s strong message, along with many others, had a chilling effect on the Muslim body, leaving the AIMMM members speechless. One of the members of the AIMMM questioned the “enthusiasm” shown by the Muslim body vis-à-vis PCI affairs, as its area of work is entirely different. “The Muslim body is not formed to felicitate members of the PCI…It is not under its jurisdiction,” said one person who closely monitors the community affairs.
A journalist, who is also a member of the PCI and has been covering community issues for over two decades, said that reaching out to press bodies or journalists is not bad, but it should be done in the proper manner with a clear purpose. “The All India Muslim Majlis-e-Mushawarat (AIMMM) tried to do it in a bizarre manner. It lacks professionals needed to handle PR exercises,” said the journalist, who wished not to be named. He assailed the obsession of most of the community leaders with the media. “Their main focus is to get themselves published in newspapers,” he said. He added that most of the community leaders wish to tackle the community through press conferences, seminars, and symposiums.
Senior journalist Andleeb Akhtar, who is also a member of PCI, questioned the idea of felicitating elected members of the media body, asking whether the Muslim organization was formed for this purpose or if it had no other significant work to focus on. “I simply can’t understand the reason behind the bogus move.”
“The Muslim organizations readily agree to the idea of organizing seminars and symposiums. In particular, they seldom cite a shortage of funds when organizing luncheons and dinners for journalists. However, they often fall short when it comes to prioritizing and working in line with their core objectives. It is disheartening to observe that people with limited capabilities and understanding are running community organizations,” said Quamar Ashraf, who is also a PCI member.
The AIMMM has not yet officially responded to the development.