Syllabus: General Studies Paper 1 (Modern History)
The struggle for the freedom of the press became an integral part of the struggle for freedom. Analyse. ( 15 Marks)
Press proved to be a tool in hands of Indian nationalists to build anti colonial struggle and take nationalism to the remote corners of the country. Such task wouldn’t have been successful if freedom of press is not ensured. Because such a freedom ensures that colonial government has no control or influence over the content of newspaper which ensured free flow of ideas as well the legitimacy and authenticity of news published, opinions expressed. This will in turn bring in acceptance of people.
But British Indian government tried to curb freedom of press by passing acts like vernacular press act, 1878, section 124A (sedition law) etc. And such move by British reminded political subservient position of India. This made struggle for freedom of press became integral part of struggle for freedom.
The reason for such a struggle lies in the fact that
1) During initial phase main political task was that of politicization, political propaganda and education and formation and propagation of nationalist ideology. Press was the chief instrument for carrying out this task of mobilizing and consolidating nationalist public opinion.
Ex: Voice of India of Dadabai Naoroji popularized drain theory by exposing exploitative nature of colonial rule Bardoli Patrika during Bardoli satyagraha was brought to mobilize public opinion in favor of peasant cause
2) Press acted as an institution of opposition to government by scrutinizing colonial policies and acts.
Ex: Surendranath Banerjee in ‘Bengalee’ criticized a judge of culcutta high court for being insensitive to the religious sentiments of Bengalis.
3) Channel of information — It facilitated exchange of ideas between leaders from different parts of nation and made people of one part aware of conditions prevailing in other part.
Ex: Deenbandhu newspaper started by N.M. Lokhanday threw light on miserable conditions of working class in India
4) Vehicle of modern western ideas like democracy, limited government, equality etc. were popularized via press. Thus newspapers acted as tool to politically educate people.
Ex: Through Harijan patrika Gandhiji campaigned for the alleviation miseries of Dalits by pitching for Equality
Punjabee of Lala Lajpat Roy had self-help as its motto
5) Political participation – library movement sprang up all over country where every piece of news or editorial is read, heard and discussed became new form of political participation.
This struggle found expression in every phase of freedom struggle starting from moderate phase till Gandhian phase.
1) Before congress phase early leaders agitated against Vernacular press act that has discriminated between vernacular press and English press. They had sent propaganda against it to British Indian Government. As a result of this the act was withdrawn in 1882.
2) Freedom of press formed major demand of nationalists.
Ex: Nehru report of 1928 provided for freedom of press
Resolution of fundamental rights passed during Karachi congress, 1931 guaranteed free press
3) Council debates and discussions criticized the laws which curtailed press freedom.
Ex: Bombay council debates over Indian press act, 1910
4) Nationwide protests against these repressive laws
Ex: During Swadeshi and boycott movement there were protest against section 153A and section 124 of IPC
5) Protest against the arrest of leaders under these laws
Ex: Textile and railway workshop workers protested against trial of Tilak on the sedition charges. In words of Lenin it marked entry of Indian working class in political stage.
Thus national movement from the beginning zealously defended the freedom of the Press whenever the Government attacked it or tried to curtail it. Hence struggle for freedom of press became important aspect of India’s struggle for freedom.
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