AKHBAR LUDHIANA, a weekly newspaper in Persian sponsored by the British North-West Frontier Agency at Ludhiana in November 1834. The paper, a four page sheet initially, but doubling its size within two years, started printing at the American Missionary Press, Ludhiana, shifting to the Pashauri Mall Press, Ludhiana, in June 1841. Three years later it ceased publication. It had a small circulation mainly determined by the requirements of the East India Company\’s government. The name of the editor or subscription rates were nowhere mentioned. The Akhbar carried news furnished by English news printers from various parts of the Punjab.
The main focus was Lahore, the Sikh capital, and news from Lahore was for several years the front page caption in the paper, the day today happenings at the court of Ranjit Singh, the royal decrees to civil and military officers and visits of the vakils or representatives of independent and feudatory states constituting the staple news taking up nearly half the space.
Interesting incidental information is thus provided concerning the character of the Maharaja and his administration such as his generous treatment of his soldiers (the paper in its issue No. 99,19 November 1836, records how, on Suchet Singh Dogra\’s report that a platoon had returned after arduous duty in Bannu, the Maharaja immediately sanctioned two months leave of absence for them to visit their families), the severity with which he dealt with the law breakers and miscreants (issue No. 114, 4 March 1837, records the decree issued by the Maharaja for taking severe action against the Afridi zamindars for their unlawful activities), the hospitality shown by his government to foreign travellers and dignitaries (No. 106, 7 January 1837), and the realization of revenue from the turbulent tribes of trans Indus region (No. 115, 19 December 1836).
There are references to the condition of the peasantry, law and order situation, mode of collection of revenue, celebration of festival occasions, and to the feudal demesnes of the Sikh nobility resum able after the death of the occupant or sometimes even before (No. 109, 3 December 1836). Besides news of the Lahore Darbar, the Akhbar reported an occasional item from Ludhiana, though nothing about the activities of the English political agencies at Ludhiana or Ambala. In fact, it shunned all news relating to the East India Company and published only such reports as had nothing to do with the policy of the British in India. News about disputes and disturbances in Maharaja Ranjit Singh\’s territories, about court intrigues, murders of princes and sardars and of the power of the Sikh army after the Maharaja\’s death, received prominent display.
At times important happenings at far off places such as Calcutta, Leh, Hyderabad, Multan, Bahawalpur, Baluchistan, Qandahar, Bukhara and Khaibar, were also reported. News of local as well as of general public interest was featured sometimes; for instance, the opening of an English medium school at Ludhiana in 1834 (No. III, 11 February 1837), and habsidam (control of breath) performed by a sadhu, named Dharam Das, by remaining alive for 40 days buried underground (No. 112, 11 February 1837). The style of writing, unlike that of the Persian chronicles generally, was exempt from verbosity. The language used was simple and easily intelligible. The editor apparently had a good command of Persian and he made the maximum use of the space by his economy and precision of phrase. He dispensed with the elaborate forms of honorifics usually surrounding the names of chiefs and grandees.