Dr. Vinod Kumar Kewalramani*
The study dwells on the news mediums before focusing on specific newspapers. It continues with a broad sweep of the origin, development and importance of newspapers in Rajputana, India and at the global level. Effort has also been made to explain the importance and aims of this research paper in the context of different newspapers. The relevant literature has also been reviewed.
Viewed in chronological perspective, the first newspaper of the then state of Rajputana was a bilingual (Hindi and Urdu) called ‘Mazharul Saroor’, published in Bharatpur in 1849. Nothing much can be said authoritatively about this paper because no copy is available today. In 1856, Headmaster Kanhiyalal took the initiative to bring out a bilingual newspaper called ‘Roztul Talim’ or ‘Rajputana Akhbar’. Its contents were published in equal measure in Hindi and Urdu.
Many newspapers made their appearance in Rajputana between 1849 (‘MazhrulSaroor’) and 1920 when ‘Rajasthan Kesri’ came out. Prominent among the newspapers which highlighted and opposed social ills and practices included ‘Marwar Gazette’,’Rajputana Herald’, ‘Rajputana Gazette’, RajputanaSamachar’, ‘Rajputana Times’ and ‘Sarvahit’.These newspapers started the trend to mirror people’s concerns. The newspapers that started after 1920 were inspired by the contemporary longing for freedom. Their aim was to arouse social, religious and political awareness. After the debut of ‘Rajasthan Samachar’ there was no stopping the growth of journalism in Rajputana. A firm foundation of journalism was laid by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi’s ‘Pratap’ and the baton was carried forward by ‘Rajasthan Kesri’. The newspapers that followed included ‘Navin Rajasthan’, ‘Tarun Rajasthan’, ‘Rajasthan’, ‘Riyasti’, ‘Tyagbhoomi’, Meeran’, ‘Prabha’, ‘Aagivan’, ‘Young Rajasthan’, ‘Navjyoti’, ‘PrajaSevak’, ‘Naya Rajasthan’, ‘Lokvani’, ‘Jaibhoomi’, ‘Prachar’, ‘AlwarPatrika’ and ‘Jaipur Samachar’. During this period a significant contribution in spreading political and social awareness and supporting agitations for these causes in the princely states of Rajputana was made by many newspapers and magazines published outside Rajasthan-like ‘The Statesman’, ‘Hindustan’, ‘Bombay Chronicle’, ‘Princely India’, ‘Times of India’, ‘Veer Arjun’, ‘Vishwamitra’, ‘Awaz’, ‘Akhand Bharat’, ‘Sainik’, ‘Ganesh’ and ‘Arjun’.
A journalist has succinctly described the importance of newspapers: ‘Newspapers are the people’s parliament which is permanently in session.’ This is one parliament which is never prorogued. Like parliament, newspapers also debate and discuss various issues of wide concern. Journalism is associated with all issues that matter to the people and by presenting them before the administration it encourages open debate on them. The importance of journalism today is acknowledged in all walks of life. Issues ranging from economy, social, politics to science and the arts are all within the ambit of journalism.
Before Independence, Rajasthan was divided into many princely states but was not a composite unit. It consisted of 19 native states, two ‘chiefships’ and one British administered part. Jodhpur was the largest state and the smallest was the Lava ‘chiefship’. The administration in Rajputana was rather loose in form. People had to live under a triple yoke of the British, native rulers and feudal lords.
Disarray in States
In 1918, the Rajputana Madhya Bharat Sabha was formed to stir political awakening in Rajputana. Its first convention was held in Delhi under the chairmanship of Jamnalal Bajaj. A noticeable feature of this convention was an exhibition that showed the pitiable condition of the ordinary farmers. It also highlighted the extravagant lives of the feudal lords, their insensitivity towards the people, inadequacies in punishing criminals, widespread injustice, the destitute state of farmers etc; the depiction of the practice of forced labour was heart rending. The standard of life of the ordinary people had fallen very low in the absence of healthcare, communication and transport facilities and neglect of education.
Among the newspapers of the time which paid attention to the brutalities of the rulers, raised voices against atrocities and injustices, commented on social ills and whimsical ways of the bureaucracy were ‘Naveen Rajasthan’ (1922), ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ (1923), ‘TyagBhoomi’ (1927), ‘Prabhat’ (1932). ‘Jaipur Samachar’ (1935), ‘Navjyoti’ (1936), ‘Aagivaan’ (1937), ‘Navjeevan’ (1939), ‘PrajaSevak’ (1940), ‘Jaibhoomi’ (1940), ‘Prachar’ (1942), ‘Lokvani'(1943) etc, all published in Rajputana, while those published outside included ‘The Statesman’, ‘Hindustan’, ‘Bombay Chronicle’, ‘Princely India’, ‘Times of India’, ‘Veer Arjun’,’Vishwamitra’, ‘Awaz’, ‘Akhand Bharat’, ‘Sainik’, ‘Ganesh’, ‘Arjun’ etc. Relevant portions of news carried by these journals from Mewar, Alwar, Shekhawati, Bundi, Jodhpur and Bikaner have been reproduced. This chapter includes editorial comments in these newspapers about certain happenings in the states of Kishangarh, Bundi, Jaipur, Sambharetc, and throws light on the sufferings of the people neglected by the rulers who were preoccupied by the constant rifts between various princes and Jagirdars.
An analysis and review of the state of the police administration and judiciary would reveal that the police and judiciary of the era were mere slaves of the rulers and the bureaucracy, or were they competent to discharge their duties fairly and independently?
In addition to an indifferent administration and the injustice by officials, the way the police administration and judiciary were run contributed to the rise of the demand for a rule with accountability in Rajasthan. Having been slaves to bureaucrats, policemen would mindlessly let loose their brutalities on the people. In an article on police administration, Ram Narayan Chaudhary has presented a vivid account of the cruelty by the police.
Before the creation of Rajasthan, Rajputana had no duly codified laws or organized courts. Even during the British rule there was hardly a uniform form of judicial system. Judicial officers were appointed without any training or experience. Their appointment depended on the whims of the heads of the states. Every state had appointed civil and criminal courts which disposed of all cases from the initial stage to hearing the final appeal. The rampant corruption and bribery made it difficult for the poor to get any justice in these courts. The people did not have even nominal political rights.
Police, Judiciary and Newspapers
Newspapers had taken it upon themselves to expose the rampant corruption in the police and judiciary. From time to time, the newspapers will publish stories about the acts of injustice and cruelty on the people. As a result, even the newspapers became victims of injustice and cruelty. Journalists were harassed and jailed and many restrictions were placed on the freedom of newspapers.
Newspapers used to print ample stories about the oppression and cruelty by the feudal elements and the social ills. A glimpse of what was happening in Bikaner, Jaipur, Bharatpur and Alwaretc is provided in some of the following examples:
‘Aagivan’ wrote in the local dialect a news item relating to ‘searches in Bikaner’, which tells about the brutalities of the police. Writing about the atrocities committed by the bureaucracy in the Thikana(principality) of Danta in Jaipur, the same newspaper informs us that the land ownership record of the poor were destroyed and the land was occupied by the men of the Thikanedar. From time to time, newspapers printed stories about bribery and unlawful assault on people. Two examples can be cited from news items under the heading ‘Naiyon Su Begar’ and ‘Gair Kanoni Maarpeet’. Another news item in ‘Aagivaan’ about the arrest of Gokulji Verma in Bharatpur indicates how arbitrarily the judiciary functioned. The news item says that Gokulji was denied bail despite the provision for bail in the section of the law under which he was arrested. The newspaper wrote about the resentment that it had caused among the people. Almost similar accounts have been presented from Alwar, Deoli and Jaipur etc.
Apart from ‘Aagivaan’ many other newspapers fearlessly printed news items about the deplorable state of judiciary and the atrocities on the people to spread awareness among the people. One of these newspapers was ‘Tarun Rajasthan’. News dispatches from Kota and Mewar portray the sorry state of judiciary there. ‘Naveen Rajasthan’, ‘Veer Arjun’, ‘Pratap’, ‘Sainik Saransh’ etc also played the same role.
The above newspapers indeed played a crucial role in arousing public awareness about the lamentable situation in all of Rajputana. It started with the criticism of the policies of the local rulers and then included reports on the backwardness of the various native states. Later, the newspapers extended support to other causes raised by the people, like agitations by farmers and the Bheels, and demanding responsible administration in the states. The newspapers thus helped the people create history whiles up porting the fights against the local and state feudal rulers and the British administration. Many of the courageous people who took up these fights adopted journalism as a means of furthering their struggle and worked effectively for social reforms and consciousness. Vijay Singh Pathik, Ram Narayan Chaudhary, Haribhau Upadhyaya, Jainarayan Vyas, Baba Narsinh Das, Rishidatt Mehta, Jagdish Prasad Mathur, Deepak, Kshemant Rahat, Hiralal Shashtri, Premnarayan Mathur, Sidharaj Daddha, Raghubar Dayal Goyal, Yugal Kishore Chaturvedi, Master Aditeyndra, Master Bholanath, Abhinn Hari, Shobhalal Gupta, Gokul Lal Asava and Ramesh Chandra Vyas were among those who pushed the pace of people’s movement through the medium of journalism.
‘Rajasthan Kesri’ was the first people’s newspaper of note in the native states. In a way, the people of Rajputana had a right over this newspaper. Continuing the tradition, ‘Naveen Rajasthan’, ‘Tarun Rajasthan’, Rajasthan’, ‘Tyagbhoomi’, ‘Prabha’, ‘Aagivan’ and ‘Young Rajasthan’ gave a new direction to the people’s movement in the native states and tried to organise the youth power. Newspapers published outside Rajasthan made almost the same contribution in supporting the people’s movement and spread political and social awareness among them. Foremost among these newspapers was ‘Pratap’. Other prominent newspapers in this category were ‘Akhand Bharat’, ‘Ganesh’, ‘Sainik’, Leader’, ‘Princely India’, ‘Bombay Chronicle’, ‘Arjun’, ‘Awaz’, ‘Navjeevan’, ‘Hindustan Times’, ‘The Times of India’ and ‘Aaj’. Not only did these newspapers write about the various activities in different parts of the state, but played a key role in creating wide public awareness by supporting the trailblazing farmers’ agitations.
The contemporary newspapers and magazines not only lent their support but also extended full cooperation to the various people’s movements in different parts of the state. The newspapers and magazines transmitted to the people all events in the state that broadened social consciousness. Although the majority of the state population was illiterate, the newspapers left no stone unturned in spreading the right information among the people of the state.
News items and editorials were not the only means to convey and disseminate information for spreading social awareness, the opposition to social ills and drawbacks was also expressed through poetry and songs. A poem by Pandit Gopinath Sharma published in ‘Aagivan’ on 20 November, 1937 on the ill practices in the country is a good example of the powerful role poetry playedin social transformation efforts. ‘Naveen Rajasthan’ and ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ carried articles on Marwari women and marriage and antiquated customs which represent the newspapers’ opposition to the practice of child marriage. In the same manner, newspapers like ‘Tyag Bhoomi’ and ‘Saurabh’ fervently wrote against reprehensible customs like slavery, Purdah system, old-age marriage etc. This chapter also includes news relating to atrocities on people and their problems and travails as published in other newspapers, which indicate their efforts to introduce social reforms.
Focus on Education
Newspapers and journals, not only in India but the world over, have been vehicles of changes in the political, economic, religious and cultural fields. Many movements and revolutions in different parts of the world were built on the foundation of education and media. An article titled ‘Improving Education’, written by Kannomal in the inaugural issue of the monthly ‘Saurabh’, published from Jhalawar, has elaborated on the state of education and the need for spreading it in the country. The article lays emphasis on the importance of making Hindi the medium of education and outlines a four-year curriculum for education which will strengthen the foundation of education. Journals like ‘Saurabh’ and ‘Tyag Bhoomi’ laid stress on compulsory education and literacy among women. An article by Sampoornanandji in ‘Saurabh’, ‘Shikshaka Adarsh’, dwells on ideal education from the primary to the highest level. An article, ‘India and Japan’, published in ‘Tyag Bhoomi’, the author Keshav Kumar Thakur has compared the status of education in the two countries and regretted that education had not spread so widely in India.
So, it can be said that while discussions in various bodies that work for the good and welfare of the people, libraries and evening classes did help raise the level of social awakening, the newspapers made their contribution through news and editorial columns, articles and poems in bringing the new ideas to the people everywhere.
While in the parts directly under British rule the capitalists and bureaucracy were using their clout to control newspapers, newspapers and journalists in Rajasthan were continuing to work with their missionary spirit intact. The land management policy of the British was disadvantageous to the farmer because of the regularly escalating rates of land taxes. In a situation of poor agricultural output the farmers found it very difficult to raise the funds needed to pay the land tax. They were forced to borrow from the money lenders. As a result the land revenue system found the farmers caught in a vice-like grip of the rich and thus began the process of ejecting the farmers from their land. Taxes were levied on the fodder for animal and the cultivable land as well as land reserved for grazing. It broke the harmony of village life, corruption accelerated and the farmer began to be burdened with tax-related debts. The situation began to hit those who earned their livelihood from leasing farm land and dealt in money transactions. They left the state. The reason behind all these problems was that the British wanted monetisation of the economy so that the demand for British goods increased all over Rajasthan.The result, however, was that it nearly ruined Rajasthan’s economy. Yet in the first decade of the 20th century, a framework of land revenue administration was prepared and a Revenue Board was set up in Bikaner. In some of the states, the process of industrialisation began after 1920. Cotton ginning factories were set up in many places like Desuri and Pali in Marwar, Beawar, Bikaner, Srikaranpur, Raisinghpur, Vijaynagar, Sri Ganganagar, and Fatehnagar, Banera, Rajsamand, Asindetc in the Mewar region. Pali, Bikaner and Hanumangarhhad factories for wool processing, Beawar had its third cotton mill in 1925. Cotton mills were set up in Bhilwara and Pali in 1938 and 1944 respectively. Cement factories were set up in Lakheri in 1913 and Sawai Madhopur in 1930. In the Mewar region, Kareda (Bhoopalsagar) had a sugar mill and Mewar had its first oil mill in 1943. The Jodhpur state started an economic department in 1939 in order to protect and encourage its industries. The Udaipur state opened an industry department in 1940 and in 1943 Bikaner also took steps in this direction.
Despite all this, Rajasthan remained industrially backward before Independence. A primary reason was the limited resources of the state. But the tough restrictions placed by the British rulers were also responsible for hampering industrialisation in the state. The businessmen and traders who worked in British India were obliged to invest and open factories in their mother states.
Economic Backwardness and Newspaper
Editors of newspapers belonging to that time well understood the true purpose behind the commercial policies of the British. They constantly tried to convey their thoughts on the subject to the people. The political cum literary magazine ‘Tyag Bhoomi’ published in one of its issues a statement by a British official in which the latter tried to explain the intentions of the British rulers regarding India. An editorial in the paper on the problems of Rajasthan took a close look at the various issued Rajasthan faced and expressed concern about the economic problems. Similar was the case with ‘Rajasthan’ and ‘Tarun Rajasthan’.The hardship faced by the people, which actually reflected the state of economy of the time and the mentality of the Jagirdars, was articulated in articles in ‘Navjyoti’. The articles were published under various titles ‘Jagirdaron ko Sambhalo’ (Rein in the Jagirdars). ‘Rajasthan ke Jagirdar’ (Jagirdars of Rajasthan) and ‘Marwar ke Jagirdar’ (Jagirdars of Marwar).The state of the economy of that time was portrayed by the newspapers and magazines not only through articles, but also with the help of pictures and advertisements. A page with photographs in the February 1922 issue of ‘Saurabh’ carried a write-up under the title ‘Krishakon ki Doordasha’ (Farmers’ Plight). It illustrated the pitiable economic condition of a village.
As time marched ahead the beginning of the 20th century saw the stirring of political awakening and with it began efforts in the native states to crush it. In states like Tonk, Sirohi, Dhaulpur, Dungarpur, Karoli, Jhalawar and Shahpura laws were enforced against newspapers along with restrictions on holding meetings and delivering speeches. Using ‘Rajasthan Kesri’, ‘Naveen Rajasthan’ and ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ as a medium, Vijay Singh Pathik was able to publicise people’s causes well. Restrictions were placed on the entry of these newspapers in Mewar because of the alarm they had caused. Echoes of the farmers’ agitations in India had reached the British parliament because of the manner Indian newspapers covered them. Satyanarayan Sarafa was able to draw people’s attention to the sordid situation in Bikaner through his writings in ‘Riyasat’ and ‘Princely India’. Bikaner had already put restrictions on newspapers and public speeches. Running socio-educational movements is generally considered a dangerous business. In 1927-28, the ruler of Alwar had banned the circulation of six newspapers, including ‘Pratap’ and ‘Tarun Rajasthan’.Anyone found with a copy of any of these publications was liable to be fined Rs 5,000 and a five-year sentence in jail. An article, ‘AndhereKhatekeNamone’ (Examples of Black Deed)), in ‘Vijay’, discussed the forty flaws in running the administration in Jaisalmer. People of Jaisalmer were stopped from reading the publication when they tried to ask the rulers about the forty flaws.
The state of Mewar banned the entry of ‘Pratap’, ‘Rajasthan Kesari’ and ‘Naveen Rajasthan’ following the publication of reports of barbarity during the agitation by the Bhils and Meenas against a royal decree and murder at Neemuchana. The official gazette warned the people that reading or possessing these publications and giving publicity to any article or even any portion of it printed in these papers will be construed as crime. After the ban on ‘Naveen Rajasthan’, its publishers changed its name to ‘Tarun Rajasthan’. Like ‘Naveen Rajasthan’, ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ carried on the tradition of missionary journalism and supported people’s movements, thus playing an important role in spreading awakening among the people. The Mewar administration hastily banned ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ because of its critical tone. Later, ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ was also banned in Alwar, Sirohi and Bundi states.
The journalists of ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ were harassed after authorities found out their home addresses. The British authorities raided the Ajmer office of the paper. They seized all documents and sent the addresses of the correspondents to the native states.
Alarmed by the popularity of ‘Tarun Rajasthan’ and its critical tone, the Jodhpur administration too banned its entry in a knee-jerk reaction. The paper then came out as ‘Rajasthan Sandesh’.
‘Young Rajasthan’ started publication on 24 February, 1929 and its last edition appeared on 26 December of the same year. It had a life of less than one year. Yet the paper made important contribution towards political and social awakening in Rajasthan. Mahatma Gandhi himself had written the announcement about closing of the paper under the title ‘Alvida’ (Goodbye).The editor-publisher of ‘PrajaSevak’, Achleshwar Prasad Sharma was given a prison sentence of one and a half years for exposing the truth about a secret plan of the government of India. He also had to suffer inhuman torture. In a Jaipur newspaper, ‘Jaibhoomi’ that focused on awakening people, Gulabchand Kala wrote critically about the burden of debts on farmers and deplorable practices like Sagri. The paper had to put up with the wrath of the administration. Its printing press was destroyed, forcing closure of the newspaper. ‘Rajasthan’ wrote about a happening in Jodhpur: The Jodhpur Rajya Prajamandal was declared illegal in November 1937 and its chief.
In conclusion it can be said that taking advantage of the luxurious, hedonistic life of the native rulers in Rajputana, the officialdom was able to commit all sorts of atrocities on the people. At the same time the oppressive nature of the British rule was also reaching its climax. It gave rise to the demand for a rule that is answerable to the people. In this background grew in Rajasthan a journalism that aimed at widespread political awakening. The sole aim of this journalism was to arouse and strengthen the nationalistic and freedom instincts of the people. In other words, the role that newspapers and editors played in the pre-Independence days was something like the zeal of the supporters of religious conversion. The newspapers had to face a lot of difficulties and restrictions for raising their voice against feudalism and foreign rule. Yet the newspapers were successful in encouraging movements for spreading political awareness. The newspapers have continued their journey on this path of speaking up against maladministration, from the days of the freedom struggle to Independence and the present era.
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