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B.M. Sankhdher

By N. Gerald Barrier
Manohar Book Service, 1976, 324, 50.00

VOLUME I NUMBER 3 July - September 1976

With the exception of a few brief intermissions, throughout the British rule in India severe controls were put on the growth of public opinion and on the literature of nationalism or self rule. Even during the East India Company's administration, when nationalism had not taken deep roots in the Indian soil, attempts were made to suppress free expression and thought. James Hicky, father of the press in India, was tortured for his bold censure of government abuses and peculations; he was arrested and imprisoned and his paper, The Bengal Gazette, established in 1780, came to an abrupt end in 1782. William Duane, the fearless American editor of the World, who later on created a commotion in the American press and politics, met with the same autocratic treatment from the government. Char­les Maclean, Holt McKenley, James Buckingham, C.J. Fair, Sandford Arnot, William Adam, all had to suffer government vengeance in various forms of deportations, arrests, confiscation of press establish­ments or suppression of their newspapers and other publications. Lt. Colonel William Robinson was the worst sufferer. For a small letter to the editor of the Calcutta Journal on promotions in the army, published on May 16, 1822 he was ordered to leave the country within 24 hours in spite of his ill-health and he died on his way to England. The govern­ment always felt with Thomas Munro, the ‘incom­patibility of a free press and the domination of strangers’ in this country. Loud protests from Rammohun Roy, Prasannakumar Tagore, Dwarka­nath Tagore and the British journalists and editors in India for removal of censorship and controls could not carry weight with the bureaucracy, and when Lord Metcalfe, at his own intitiative gave freedom to the press in 1835, he had to suffer the wrath of his employers. The revolt of 1857 provid­ed the British a fresh opportunity to restore checks on free expression through the Licensing Act of 1857; and the Vernacular Press Act of 1878, descri­bed as 'sinister' by the Indian leadership, repressed the press considerably. The partition of Bengal in 1905 resulted in a widespread mass movement which aimed at forcing the Englishmen out of the country. Consequently the British with the object of putting an end to those newspapers which, in their opinion, incited violence and murder passed the Newspapers Act of 1908; and in protest Yugan­tar, Sandhya and Bandemataram stopped publi­cation. The antipathy of the government to nationalistic aspirations was obvious; ...

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