– ER. PRABHAT KISHORE
Mohan Das Karamchand Gandhi was a great journalist & media crusader, not only because he was great in so many ways
and his greatness was total, but because he had a great journalist’s gift of expression and communication.
Journalism is not scholarship; it is a literature or history written in a hurry. In part it is action too. A journalist must have
the capacity to understand, to reach, and to communicate; and for a half a century Gandhiji was the greatest one-man
medium of mass communication.
Gandhiji was most fearless of journalists. His life was an epic of struggle for freedom and equality, though national freedom
came in the last year of his life. He had been carelessly expressing his freedom before it came, fighting so many restrictions
imposed by the British regime from time to time. He also fought for the freedom of press. Although this might see natural, but
he was the most independent journalist possible, independent of the government business and party in the usual external and
internal pressure of the press.
Gandhiji not only edited his papers, but wrote for them incessantly. They were small papers, inevitably weekly papers. But
they were the greatest weekly papers that have ever been published. Gandhi’s advent into journalism, as in many other things
was accidental. In 1904, he was asked to take over a printing press which was at work in Durban (South Africa) under the
direction of Shree Madanjeet Vyavharik, a Mumbai ex-school teacher and Gandhi’s political co-worker. Gandhi had contributed
a large portion of its cost. Indian opinion published weekly in Hindi, Gujarati, Tamil and English and was printed at this press
with Mansukhlal Hiralal Nagar as its editor. All the editions except one had large circulations compared to other weeklies.
It was through Indian opinion that Gandhi arrived at the word ‘Satyagraha’. In the struggle of 1913, the paper was
Gandhi’s standard. 1914 was the year of his farewell of South Africa and his association with the paper ended.‘Young India’
was established in a more spacious atmosphere and a far greater vogue. Like Indian Opinion, it was also ready for Gandhi
to take over. He was keen on conducting a paper in Gujarati also and he was offered ‘Navjeevan’ a monthly, which was
converted into a weekly. Under his full control, Navjeevan appeared on October 7, 1919 and a day later ‘Young India’
appeared; both from Ahmedabad. Gandhi was the editor of both the papers and Mahadev Desai was its publisher. Both
journals were priced one Anna each and the circulation of each at one stage rose to the neighbourhood of forty thousand.
All Indian newspapers reproduced Gandhi’s articles. Interestingly, he did not accept any advertisement.
Before taking up ‘Navjeevan’ and ‘Young India’, Gandhi had edited for a short-time an un-registered weekly ‘Satyagrah’,
priced one paise, in April 1919 to protest against the discriminatory and biased policies of British Government. This
newspaper was the weapon of civil disobedience. Actually, the idea was to publish in every centre a written newspaper
without registering it, occupying not more than one side of half a full scape.
On Feb. 11, 1933, the first issue of weekly ‘Harijan’, priced one Anna, appeared from Pune. It was published for and by the
Servants of the untouchable society (Harijan Sevak Sangh) and contained poem by Tagore ‘The Cleaner’. Its ten thousand
copies were published. ‘Harijan’ was not a name of Gandhi’s choice. Some untouchable correspondents had suggested it. He also
published “Harijan Bandhu” in Gujarati and “Harijan Sewak” in Hindi. All three papers focused on India’s and the world’s social as
well as economic problems.
Fight against Censorship
The “Bharat Chhodo” movement meant a change. It was “Karo Movement” and Gandhi did not want any newspaper to be
published after the severest possible restrictions on publication of news of the “Bharat Chhodo” movement. At historic AICC
session of August 1942, Gandhi said that he had asked the fellow journalists to realise their responsibilities. He wanted
them not to become partner with the government with censorship and pre-censorship. When he along with Sardar Patel and
other leaders have been arrested, all old fight of “Harijan” and “Navjeevan” were hampered.
After a lapse of three and half years, “Harijan” was revived in Feb. 1946. Gandhi was again immersed in harijan welfare
work. It had to rename the weekly and wanted to call it “Bhangi”. After Gandhi’s death on January 30, 1948, an attempt was
made to carry on with the “Harijan” in his memory. There were hectic debate & arguments on this issue, but controversy
arose among his followers and finally, the historic “Harijan” was shut down forever.
VARIOUS OTHER PUBLICATIONS:
In ‘Gandhi era‘ of journalism, many newspapers were published to give voice to the freedom movement. ‘Swarajya’
(1920), ‘Karmaveer’ (1920), ‘Desh’ (1920), ‘Aaj’ (1920), ‘Arjun’ (1923) were some famous newspapers published at that
time. In 1920, Ramrikh Pal Sahgal started publishing journals (on economic subject) named ‘Chand’ and ‘Gyan Mandal’
from Prayag and ‘Swarth’ from Kashi, Varanasi. Monthly journals like ‘Sudha’, ‘Madhuri’, ‘Hans’ and ‘Vishal Bharat’ and
daily journals like ‘Hindustan’, ‘Nav Bharat Times’, ‘Veer Arjun’ (all from Indraprastha, Delhi) and ‘Aaj’ were well known to
all. Many daily journals had their weekly edition. Research papers like ‘Rajasthan Bharatiya’, ‘Maru Bharati’, ‘Hindusthani’,
‘Nagari Pracharani Patrika’ etc. were published in this era.
Gandhiji was a natural writer in Gujarati, but had a place as a writer in English language too. He had the power of Rajas and
Avtars. Three objects of journalism were propagated by Gandhi in Hind Swaraj (1921). First object is to understand the popular
feelings & thoughts of the people and to express it; second is to arouse national, historical & spiritual feelings among the people;
and the third objectis to write down the faults fearlessly.
Gandhi’s newspapers suggest that his purpose of journalism was to serve the society in all respect and inspire the mass
for a greater cause. He talked to the people in their own language and succeed to communicate the messages concerned.
Gandhi’s practice of journalism set high ethical and moral standard by practicing mass oriented and value based
journalism, which will always be a bench mark for the print media world.
(The author is a technocrat