Print media must be celebrated for assisting the growth of nationalism in India during the early twentieth century. Many great thinkers, social reformers, revolutionaries were either inspired, influenced, or involved in print journalism. It gave the public easy access to nationalist ideals and beliefs of liberty and equality. Newspapers acted as platforms that social reformers used to express and exhibit their opinions to the mass public to create a discourse. Due to the same discourse sparked by social reformers and nationalists, the common people began to question colonial power’s authority. When the British attempted to restrict and control the print media, nationalist journals rose in popularity. They exposed colonial misrule and inspired people to join nationalist organizations. Militant protests erupted in response to attempts to restrict anti-colonial writings.
The First Steps
The Bengal Gazette, India’s first printed newspaper, was published on 29th January 1780, this paper was known for its satirical tone and constant critique of the British Raj. An Irishman, James Augustus Hicky, ran it. The paper stopped its publication in 1782, yet it left a lasting influence.
During the first battle of independence in 1857, the daily Payam-e-Azadi began disseminating the message that the British would continue to divide and rule the country and that the people had to fight against its atrocities.
Resistance to Dissent
The print was such a strong medium for influencing people’s ideas, the British colonial government tried everything to suppress it by enacting futile repressive measures. From the early 1800s, the Raj enacted several censorship laws, one of which is still in effect today:
- Bal Gangadhar Tilak was one of the most targets of the Sedition clause, having been prosecuted and convicted three times.
- The Vernacular Press Act of 1878 was enacted to prevent non-English newspapers from criticising the Raj, as the number of people speaking out against colonial rule had increased dramatically since the famine of 1876-1878.
Period of Changes 1900-1947
- Between 1900 and 1947, the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905, the Swadeshi Movement, and the Surat session of the Indian National Congress paved India’s eventual fate of attaining independence.
- At this point, the Indian press began to differentiate between moderate and radical impulses, resulting in political tactics and correct strategies for the liberation movement. With the introduction of news agencies and news services and the increase of news coverage in India, this period saw considerable development of the press.
- Mahatma Gandhi recognized the importance of the press and exploited it as a weapon against British authority. He greatly influenced individuals to join various anti-British organisations through his writings.
- When Gandhi was charged with sedition in 1922, the entire Indian nation witnessed a courageous response of newspapers such as “The Hindustan Times” and “The Indian Express” were recognised as nationalistic publications that continued to expand their reach and impact among Indians.
Many freedom fighters were at the vanguard of India’s liberation struggle, and their work as journalists and publishers paved the way for the masses to join the campaign for Indian independence. Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sisir Kumar Ghosh, and G. Subramania Iyer were the few committed Journalists who guided the Indian populace to participate actively in the Indian freedom struggle.
Raja Ram Mohan Roy
- Nehru attributes the “founder of the Indian press” to Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
- His primary contribution to Indian journalism was his fight for a free press against the British Raj.
- Raja Ram Mohan Roy was involved in the establishment of two publications: the “Sambad Kaumudi” newspaper in Calcutta in 1821 and the “Mirat Ul Akhbar,” a daily in the Persian language, a publication that was forced to close in 1823 as an act of protest against the Press Regulations Act 1823.
Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak
- He also known to be “The Father of Indian Unrest,” created two newspapers named “Kesari” and “Maratha“, in order to instill Nationalism among fellow Indians to create a powerful dissent against the British Raj.
- Tilak boldly highlighted the essence of Kesari by harshly denouncing the growing nature of people in the country who want to please the British government. He also used clear and direct language to advocate against British rule.
- Lok Manya Tilak is recognised as the first person to use printed media to support Indian nationalism. Tilak was always that journalism could be used to shape public opinion.
- Tilak bravely reported the British government’s negligent attitude during times of starvation and the period of the plague epidemic.
- When he was charged with treason by the British government, he fought his case in court, where he argued for himself for 21 hours and 10 minutes. Tilak received a six-year term in Mandalay, Burma, for his actions.
Sisir Kumar Ghosh
- Another name whose journalistic contribution shook the foundations of the British Raj’s might was Sisir Kumar Ghosh.
- On 20th February, 1868, Sisir Kumar Ghosh founded the Amrita Bazar Patrika, his name from his mother, amounted. The primary motivation for establishing a journal was to advocate for peasants exploited by Indigo merchants.
- Due to the unexpected outbreak of the Plague, the Amrita Bazar Patrika was relocated to Calcutta and began publishing news and views in two languages, English and Bengali.
- As a brave Journalist, Ghosh produced numerous situations in which the Patrika was accused of sedition and penalised repeatedly.
The rise of print journalism aided Indian citizens in developing some political awareness, which led to their political participation in the independence movement. The press became more nationalistic during the pre-independence period, and it had a bigger reach and horizon among the people. The fundamental goal of the press during the Indian independence movement was not to gain money but to raise awareness among the Indian people about the values of freedom, nationalism, and patriotism.
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