(Famine in Kashmir, Avadh Punch,

27th January 1880)


Founded by Munshi Sajjad Hussain, Avadh Punch was a weekly satirical, humorous magazine first published from Lucknow in 1877. It became the most successful and longest running humor magazine which continued its publications till 1936. Many famous writers of its time like Akbar Allahbadi regularly contributed to the magazine. The primary target of its satire was the onslaught of westernization as a result of political dominance of the British in the sub-continent. It would satirize such legal developments as the heavy taxation and the bill about age of consent. On the other hand, the magazine would also caricature the cultural westernization of the Indians under the influence of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Sajjad Hussain would also use the magazine to write open letters to such famous personalities as the Prime Minister and Queen of the Britain, the local Nizams and Maharajas.

The exercise of satirizing the dominant, powerful, hegemonic structures of the society, epitomized by Avadh Punch, is necessary to keep multiple kinds of political, social and cultural authoritarianisms in check. As Reem Khurshid in a recent article stated “You cannot debate what you cannot joke about. Discussion, debate, dissent: the beating heart of Democracy.” The political satire is, therefore, required more than ever today when it has been actively discouraged. PEMRA, for example, has banned caricaturing of political figures and the parliament has banned the use of the term “selected” when referring to Imran Khan.