Role of Press in Indian Freedom Struggle

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At the time of the first war of independence, any number of papers were in operation in the country. Many of these like Bangadoot of Ram Mohan Roy, Rastiguftar of Dadabhai Naoroji and Gyaneneshun advocated social reforms and thus helped arouse national awakening.

It was in 1857 itself that Payam-e-Azadi started publication in Hindi and Urdu, calling upon the people to fight against the British. The paper was soon confiscated and anyone found with a copy of the paper was prosecuted for sedition. Again, the first Hindi daily, Samachar Sudhavarashan, and two newspapers in Urdu and Persian respectively, Doorbeen andSultan-ul-Akbar, faced trial in 1857 for having published a 'Firman' by Bahadur Shah Zafar, urging the people to drive the British out of India. This was followed by the notroiusGagging Act of Lord Canning, under which restrictions were imposed on the newspapers and periodicals.

Notable Role
In the struggle against the British, some newspapers played a very notable role. This included the Hindi Patriot! Established in 1853, by the author and playwright, Grish Chandra Ghosh, it became popular under the editorship of Harish Chandra Mukherjee. In 1861, the paper published a play, "Neel Darpan" and launched a movement against the British, urging the people to stop cultivating the Indigo crop for the white traders. This resulted in the formation of a Neel Commission. Later, the paper was taken over by Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. The paper strongly opposed the Government's excesses and demanded that Indians be appointed to top government posts. The Indian Mirror was the other contemporary of this paper which was very popular among the reading public.

Yet another weekly, Amrita Bazar Patrika which was being published from Jessore, was critical of the government, with the result that its proprietors faced trial and conviction. In 1871, the Patrika moved to Calcutta and another Act was passed to suppress it and other native journals.

Marathi Press
Mahadev Govind Rande, a leading leader of Maharashtra, used to write in Gyan Prakash as well as in Indu Prakash. Both these journals helped awaken the conscience of the downtrodden masses. Another Marathi weekly, Kesari was started by Tilak from January 1, 1881. He aIongwith Agarkar and Chiplunkar started another weekly journal, Mratha in English. The Editor of the 'Daccan Star' Nam Joshi also joined them and his paper was incorporated with Maratha. Tilak and Agarkar were convicted for writings against the British and the Diwan of Kolhapur. Tilak's Kesari became one of the leading media to propagate the message of freedom movement. It also made the anti-partition movement of Bengal a national issue. In 1908, Tilak opposed the Sedition ordinance. He was later exiled from the country for six years. Hindi edition of Kesari was started from Nagpur and Banaras.

Press and the First Session of Congress
The Editors commanded a very high reputation at the time of the birth of the Indian National Congress. One could measure the extent of this respect from the fact that those who occupied the frontline seats in the first ever Congress session held in Bombay in December 1885 included some of the editors of Indian newspapers. The first ever resolution at this Session was proposed by the editor of The Hindu, G. Subramanya Iyer. In this resolution, it was demanded that the government should appoint a committee to enquire into the functioning of Indian administration. The second resolution was also moved by a journalist from Poona, Chiplunkar in which the Congress was urged to demand for the abolition of India Council which ruled the country from Britain. The third resolution was supported by Dadabhai Naoroji who was a noted journalist of his time. The fourth resolution was also proposed by Dadabhai Naoroji.

There were many Congress Presidents who had either been the editors or had started the publication of one or the other newspapers. In this context, particular mention may be made of...
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