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The Indian Press 1870–1880: A Small World of Journalism

  • Uma Das Gupta (a1)
Extract

A Unianimous decision of the Viceroy's Council was taken on 14 March 1878 to establish a check over the vernacular press in India. This was Act IX of 1878, an act for ‘the better control of publications in Oriental languages’. It was to control ‘seditious writing’ in the vernacular newspapers everywhere in the country, except the south. Too much was being written in these newspapers of the ‘injustice and tyranny’ of the British government, ‘its utter want of consideration towards its native subjects, and the insolence and pride of Englishmen in India’.One hundred and fifty-nine extracts from vernacular newspapers of the North-Western Provinces, Punjab, Bengal and Bombay were produced before the Supreme Council as evidence of existing sedition. Surprised at its own importance, the vernacular press staggered into the eighties of the nineteenth century. The crucial demand for ajudicial trial in case of an accusation of sedition against an editor was never conceded by the government, although in October 1878 the act was modified in minor respects. The important thing was that the government from an almost complete unawareness had come to be so preoccupied with the vernacular press. What was the nature of the vernacular press in India in the 1870s and how wide was its range?

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1 For the extracts of the vernacular papers submitted to the Supreme Council see Home (Judicial) Proceedings, National Archives of India, New Delhi [N.A.I.], April 1878, Pt B, No. 23, Appendix [hereafter, Home Judicial]; also, Dacosta, J., ‘Remarks on the Vernacular Press Laws of India’, pp. 6–16, in Political Tracts relating to India and China (London, 1878).

2 By this amendment the submission of proofs before publication was no longer insisted upon, although the bail-bond remained. Home (Legislative) Proceedings, N.A.I., October 1878, Pt B, No. 167; also Cranbrook to Lytton, 30 May and 4 June 1878, Lytton Papers, Vol. 516/3, MSS Eur. E 218, India Office Library, London.

3 Home (Public) Proceedings, N.A.I. [hereafter, Home Public], October 1878, Pt B, Nos 160–1.

4 Home Public, October 1878, Pt B, Nos 143–59.

5 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Bangla Samayik Patra (Contemporary Press of Bengal), in Bengali, pp. 34, 6, 8, 12.

6 For Calcutta, see Administrative Report for Bengal, 1878–9, Statistical Returns pp. ccixccxi; for Bombay, see McDonald, E.E., ‘The Modernizing of Communication: Vernacular Publishing in 19th Century Maharashtra’ in Asian Survey, Vol. 8, No. 7 (1968), pp. 604–6; for N.W.P. see Tassy, Garcin de, La langue et la littérature hindoustanies de 1850 à 1869, (2nd ed., Paris, 1874), p. 10.

7 Sanial, S.C., ‘History of the Press in India—IV, Bombay’, The Calcutta Review, Vol. 131 (1910), pp. 352–3.

8 Data obtained from the following sources: Home Public, January 1877, Pt B, No. 293; Home Public, September 1874, Pt B, No. 88; Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, Nos 298–9; Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, pp. 7–10 in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 85; also de Tassy, G., La langue et la littérature hindoustanies, p. 36.

9 Home Public, October 1878, Pt B, Nos 143–61.

10 Sastri, S., ‘Men I Have Seen’, The Modern Review, Vol. 8 (1910), pp. 271, 273–4.

11 Bose, P.N. and Moreno, H.W.B., A Hundred Years of the Bengali Press (Calcutta 1920), p. 93.

12 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Sahitya Sadhak Charit Mala, No. 54 (Calcutta, 1945), p. 9. This is a series of short biographical essays in Bengali on the different literary figures, published separately.

13 Rao, V.D., ‘The Beginning and Growth of the Marathi Press’, in The Indian Press, ed. S.P., Sen (Calcutta, 1967), pp. 5960; also Arte, S.B., ‘Stray Thoughts about Marathi Journalism’, The Hindusthan Review, Vol. 65 (1920), pp. 179–81.

14 Ghosh, to Basak, , Calcutta, 9 July 1837 (Private Correspondence of Ram Gopal Ghosh and Gobind Chandra Basak), in Sanial, S.C., ‘History of the Press in India—XI, Bengal’, The Calcutta Review, Vol. 132 (1911), p. 31. Ram Gopal Ghosh, son of a small shopkeeper, became a big merchant in the thirties and forties. He was educated at Hindu College, like many of his illustrious contemporaries, and became a member of the Bengal Education Council, being at the same time, and throughout, an active member of the Bengal Chamber of Commerce. See Misra, B.B., The Indian Middle Classes, Their Growth in Modern Times (Oxford, 1961), p. 345.

15 Rao, , ‘The Marathi Press’, in The Indian Press, pp. 57, 59.

16 de Tassy, G., La langue et la littérature hindoustanies, p. 46.

17 Report on the Urdu Newspapers of Madras Presidency (unpaginated) in Home Public, October 1878, Pt B, No. 159.

18 The Audit Bureau of Circulations (special number on the history of the press in India) (Bangalore, 1959), p. 6.

20 Karkaria, R.P., ‘The Revival of the Native Press in Western India—The Rast Goftar’, The Calcutta Review, Vol. 107 (1898), p. 240.

21 The Calcutta paper, Sangbad Rasaraj, fell victim to a libel suit brought against its proprietor-editor by Raja Krishna Nath Rai of Cossimbazar in the year 1843 for having accused the raja and his wife of gross misconduct. The editor was imprisoned for six months and had to pay a fine of 500 rupees as well. The Calcutta Review, Vol. 132 (1911), p. 35.

22 Selections from the Records of Bengal, No. 32, p. xlii; also Narain, S., ‘The “Kohinoor” of 1851’, Journal of the Punjab Historical Society, Vol. 4 (1916), p. 56.

23 Natarajan, J., History of Indian Journalism, Pt II of the Report on the Press Commission (New Delhi, 1955), p. 71.

24 Bose, and Moreno, , A Hundred Years of the Bengali Press, pp. 68–9.

25 Natarajan, , History of Indian Journalism, p. 71.

26 Ibid., note on p. 71.

27 ‘A Chapter of Autobiography’ in Speeches and Writings of Dadabhai Naoroji, (Madras, 1910), p. 655.

28 Bose, and Moreno, , A Hundred Years of the Bengali Press, pp. 64–6.

29 Karkaria, R.P., ‘The Oldest Paper in India: The Bombay Samachar’, The Calcutta Review, Vol. 212 (1898), p. 15.

30 Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, pp. 7, 910, in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 88.

31 Chand, B., ‘Urdu Journalism in the Punjab’, Journal of the Punjab University Historical Society, Vol. 2, Pt 1 (1933), p. 30.

32 Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, p. 1, in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 88.

33 Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, Nos 298–9.

34 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Deshiya Samayik Patrer Itihas, in Bengali, Vol. I, pp. 63–5.

35 Report on the Urdu Newspapers of Madras Presidency (unpaginated), in Home Public, October 1878, Pt B, No. 159.

37 Banerjea, S.N., A Nation in Making (Reprint, Calcutta, 1963), p. 157.

38 Murthy, N.K., Indian Journalism (Mysore, 1966), p. 66.

39 Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, p. 13, in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 88.

40 Proceedings of the Council of the Governor General of India, 1878, Vol. 17, pp. 177–87.

41 Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, p. 9, in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 88.

42 Some of the Bengali journals which disappeared were the Gyanadipika (1840–1851), the Upadeshak (1846–1851), the Rasaratnakar (1849–1851), the Kanstabh Kiran (1846–1851). Selections from the Records of Bengal, No. 32, pp. xlv–xlvi.

43 Bose, and Moreno, , A Hundred Years of the Bengali Press, p. 69.

44 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Sahitya Sadhak Charitmala, No. 31 (Calcutta, 1944).

45 Ibid., No. 54 (Calcutta, 1945).

46 Ibid., No. 39, (Calcutta, 1944).

47 Heimsath, C.H., Indian Nationalism and Hindu Social Reform (Princeton, 1964), p. 61; also Chronicle of the British Indian Association (18511952), ed. P.N., Singh Roy (Calcutta, 1963), Preface.

48 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Sahitya Sadhak Charitmala, No. 60 (Calcutta, 1947); also Sen, P.K., Keshav Chandra Sen (Calcutta, 1938), pp. 76–7, 78–9.

49 Ghose, N.N., Kristo Das Pal, A Study (Calcutta, 1887), pp. 68, 9–13.

50 Bandyopadhyaya, B.N., Sahitya Sadhak Charitmala, No. 35 (Calcutta, 1945).

51 Home Judicial, July 1878, Pt B, No. 23.

52 Obituary notices on Maneckji Barjorji's death in the Mumbai Samachar, 30 and 31 March 1898. I am grateful for the translation from Gujerati to Miss Taraporevala of the Gujerati section, Asiatic Society, Bombay. Mandalik was then the editor of the Native Opinion in Bombay; Ardeshir Moos was an astronomer and Jehangir Moos was a writer.

53 The Jam-e-Jamshed Centenary Souvenir (Bombay, 1933), article in Gujerati on the Marzban family, pp. 279–80. I am again grateful to Miss Taraporevala for translating sections of the article for me.

54 Jeejeebhoy, J.R., ‘Historical Survey of Bombay Journalism’, Jam-e-Jamshed Centenary Souvenir, p. 12 (English Section).

55 Buckland, C.E., Dictionary of Indian Biography (London, 1906), p. 228 (hereafter referred to as Buckland, Dictionary).

56 Edwardes, S.M., Kharshedji Rustamji Cama, 1831–1909. A Memoir (Oxford, 1923), pp. 23, 6, 810; on Sorabji Shapurji Bengalee, see Famous Parsis, G. Natesan and Co. (Madras, 1930), pp. 81–3.

57 Natarajan, J., History of Indian Journalism, p. 60.

58 ‘Rao, The Marathi Press’, in The Indian Press, p. 59.

59 Parekh, C.L., Eminent Indians on Indian Politics (Bombay, 1892), pp. 135–8.

60 Bhatnagar, B.R., The Rise and Growth of Hindi Journalism (Allahabad, 1947), p. 698; also Buckland, , Dictionary, p. 190.

61 Memorandum on the Vernacular Newspapers of Upper India, p. 3, in Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, No. 88; also Selections from The Records of Bengal, No. 32, p. lxiii.

62 Murthy, , Indian Journalism, p. 317.

63 Report on the Urdu Newspapers of Madras Presidency (unpaginated) in Home Public, October 1878, Pt B, No. 159.

64 Birdwood, G., ‘The Native Press of India’, Journal of the Society of Arts, Vol. 25 (18761877), p. 400.

65 The circulation figure of the Oudh Akhbar for the year 1870–1871 was put at 22,800—surely an exaggeration. Source: Administrative Report for Oudh, 1870–71, statistical returns, p. ccxix.

66 Cotes, E., ‘The Newspaper Press of India’, The Asiatic Review, Vol. 19 (1923), p. 417; also Digby, W., ‘The Native Newspapers of India and Ceylon’, The Calcutta Review, Vol. 65 (1877), pp. 362–3.

67 Proceedings of the Council of the Governor General of India, 1878, Vol. 17, pp. 157, 162–3, 165, 179.

68 Home Public, August 1879, Pt B, Nos 298–9.

69 A list of subscribers in 1871 is available at the Bombay Samachar, Bombay. I am grateful to Mr Cama, the present managing director of the Samachar, for access to such information.

70 Administrative Report for North Western Provinces, 18741875, pp. 197–8.

71 Divisional and District Annual Report, Rajshahye Division, 18771878, para. 48, p. 20 (hereafter I shall refer to these records as District Report with the name of the division).

72 District Report, 24-Parganas, Presidency Division, 18721873, p. 176.

73 Subscription lists in: Indian Mirror, 18 03 1873;Hindoo Patriot, 5 01 1871;Amrita Bazar Patrika, 31 March 1878.

74 Selections from the Records of Bengal, No. 32, p. xlii.

75 Spectator, 16 03 1878.

76 Priolkar, A.K., The Printing Press in India (Bombay, 1958), Pt I, pp. 78–9.

77 Cotes, E., in The Asiatic Review, Vol. 19, pp. 417–18.

78 Ibid., p. 423. Everard Cotes was editor of the Indian Daily News in the 1890s.

79 Murthy, , Indian Journalism, pp. 54–5; also Golden Jubilee Supplement of The Statesman (Calcutta, 1945), article on Robert Knight (unpaginated).

80 Stocqueler, J.H., The Memoirs of a Journalist (London and Bombay, 1873), p. 92.

81 Banerjea, , A Nation in Making, p. 64.

82 Golden Jubilee Supplement of The Statesman, article on Robert Knight (unpaginated).

83 The Pioneer 1865–1964, Centenary Supplement (Allahabad, 1965), article on its history (unpaginated); also Buckland, , Dictionary, p. 11.

84 One Hundred Years in India, The Times of India Centenary Supplement (Bombay, 1935), pp. 57.

85 Ibid., p. 9; also Buckland, , Dictionary, p. 104.

86 One Hundred Years in India, The Times of India Centenary Supplement, pp. 78.

87 The Pioneer 1865–1964, Centenary Supplement (unpaginated); also Buckland, Dictionary, pp. 381, 391.

88 Sandbrook, J.A., ‘A Hundred Years of Journalism in India’, The Asiatic Review, Vol. 18 (1922), pp. 448–9.

89 Golden Jubilee Supplement of The Statesman, article on ‘One Anna Journalism—The Statesman’ (unpaginated).

90 India (public) Proceedings, India Office Library, London, June 1875, Pt A, Vol. 517, Nos 65–7.

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