news Tuesday, April 07, 2015 - 05:30

Sumitha Narayanan Kutty | The News Minute| September 10, 2014| 6.20 pm IST

September 1 saw the launch of Suprabhaatham (Good Morning) – a new Malayalam daily backed by the powerful Sunni Musli ‘EK group’ (named after late E K Abubacker Musaliyar) associated with the ruling party Indian Union Muslim League (IUML). The newspaper was also launched with the backing of the Samastha Kerala Jamiyathul Ulema, the most influential religious group of Sunni clerics in the state.

Suprabhaatham presents itself as yet another voice of the Muslim community in Kerala adding to the existing plethora of Muslim newspapers such as Chandrika which is the IUML party mouthpiece, Madhyamam run by the Jamaat-e-Islami, Varthamanam of the Mujahids and Thejus, representing the Socialist Democratic Party of India, and Siraj of the Sunni rival faction ‘AP group’ (led by cleric Kanthapuram A P Abubacker Musaliyar).

Rumours and Fissures 

The launch of Suprabhaatham comes with its own set of controversies. Many believe the new daily is yet another chapter to the ‘Sunni versus Sunni’ rivalry in Kerala.

They say it is a direct result of a power tussle between the state’s two leading Sunni groups – the far more prominent ‘EK group’, which is loyal to the Congress-led coalition United Democratic Front and its lesser rival the ‘AP group’, which has traditionally supported the CPI(M)-led Left Democratic Front.

Media reports from mid-2013 have indicated that the paper may have been launched after the EK group felt it was neglected by Chandrika, the IUML party’s mouthpiece which appeared to be cozier with the AP members in its coverage and events.

Open speculation of such a fissure were triggered when Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal, the Muslim League state president stepped down as printer and publisher of Chandrika. A few months later, he inaugurated the Suprabhaatham printing press and website edition (Kerala CM Oomen Chandy inaugurated the web edition).

However, Thangal continues to be on Chandrika’s board and has transitioned to the role of Managing Director.

Sources told The News Minute that the issue had more to do with Thangal stretching himself too thin as printer and publisher, partiularly having to tackle a slew of defamation cases in various courts across the state, as part of his duties.


Turf wars? 

So is there really a reason for Chandrika to worry? On first glance, it may be so. Its circulation stands at 1.5 lakhs, inclusive of its international (Gulf) editions. Suprabhaatham claims to already have 5 lakh readers, a number which would place it as Kerala’s third largest newspaper after the Malayala Manorama and Mathrubhumi.

But on probing deeper, The News Minute has learnt that this may not be the case because those running the two newspapers are not in it to win it given that Suprabhaatham is not a rival political mouthpiece but one that supports no particular political party. Readers in the community may choose to read both what the League says as well as the EK Samastha.


And here's why. The Panakkads are the “First Family” of the Muslim League. IUML state president Panakkad Hyderali Shihab Thangal also has good relations with the EK group, which sources claim is ‘the backbone of the party’ and like the ‘first family’, is popular across the state even as far south as Thiruvananthapuram. The family has always worked to ensure no conflicting interests arise between the various groups and kept its political unity intact.

In addition, the EK group is the biggest religious outfit in Kerala which controls over 9,000 of the state’s 12,000 madrasas (in addition to mosques in Mangalore, Karnataka). This hold easily explains the sort of enormous subscription figures the group claims Suprabhaatham already has.

For both Chandrika and Suprabhaatham, funding isn’t exactly a problem either. The growing range of Muslim newspapers proves it has an expanding audience and the sector continues to be vigorously funded with most papers having editions in Gulf countries as well.

Suprabhaatham now aims for six editions, to be brought out in Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Kannur, Malappuram, Thrissur and Kochi. Kottumala T M Bapu Musliyar is the Chairman while Navaz Punoor, the Managing Editor of the newspaper.

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