The Great Indian Newspapers: 50 Living Legends
Dr. Mrinal Chatterjee*
* Head, Indian Institute of Mass Communication,
With a million-plus circulation1 The Hindustan Times (popularly known as HT) is the second most widely read English newspaper in India after The Times of India2
HT, the first Indian daily in Delhi has an interesting history. Sunder Singh Lyallpuri (1878 – 3 March 1969) was a leading Sikh member of the independence movement, a general of the Akali Movement, an educationist, and a journalist. Lyallpur played a key role in the development of the Shiromani Akali Dal, and in the Sikh Reform Movement of the early 1920s. He founded a Punjabi daily which was named The Akali which was meant to protect the rights of Sikhs and provide a political voice for their interests.
Pandit Madan Mohan Malavya noted freedom fighter and educationist was a good friend of Lyallpuri. He suggested that Akali should start one of their own English newspaper so that the Akal agenda and voice could reach an audience other than the Punjabi-reading one. Accordingly, The ‘Managing Board’ of The Akali newspaper held a meeting under the chairmanship of Lyallpuri and decided to found an English daily. However, the move received a setback when Lyallpuri was arrested under section 124 ‘O’ for writing what the English Government thought was objectionable material in The Akali. On release from jail, Lyallpuri resumed the efforts and put an advertisement in The Akali asking for donations for five Lakhs from Sikh Sangat. In response, the Punjabi fans of Lyallpuri from Stockton (USA) immediately wired Rs 150,000. Another Rs 70,000 was contributed by the local Sikh community with the efforts of Lyallpuri.
The Hindustan Times finally came into being on 26 September 1924. Mahatma Gandhi inaugurated the newspaper. The first issue contained articles by Motilal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru, Mahomed Ali, C. F. Andrews, St. Nihal Singh, Cattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, T. L. Vaswani, Ruchi Ram Sahni, Bernard Haton, Harinder Nath Chattopadhyaya, Dr. Saifuddin Kichlu, and Rubi Waston. The first issue was published from Naya Bazar, Delhi, which is now known as Swami Sharda Nand Marg.
M. Panikar was its first editor. It was not easy to publish an English newspaper in north India in those days. Panikkar wrote: “Delhi had few compositors who could cope with English types or press foremen who could manage a large press.” Panikkar had two able assistants, G. S. Raghvan and Ambadi Krishna Menon who made his task of running the paper lighter. Referring to Raghavan, he wrote: “There was little in the field of journalism that he did not know. He was competent in every department from composing type to writing leading articles.” Of Ambadi Krishna Menon he said: “I have rarely seen such a spotless character, so unselfish and utterly devoted.”3
Because it was the only English newspaper in the capital, it attracted wide notice from the beginning. Panikkar said: “With the support of K. C. Roy of the Associated Press of India, I was able to establish high standards of journalism in the Hindustan Times.”
Panikkar launched the Hindustan Times as a serious nationalist newspaper. As an Oxonian, historian, and litterateur, Panikkar must have hoped to make his paper eventually more than an Akali sheet even as funds flowed freely from activist Akali patrons. Panikkar and his team worked hard, but the paper made very little headway. In two years Panikkar could not take the print order any higher than 3,000. By then the Akali movement appeared to lose steam and funds dried up. The paper was saved from an untimely demise when Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya stepped in to realize his vision of a newspaper in Delhi.
Malaviya raised1 50,000 rupees to acquire the Hindustan Times along with the help of nationalist leaders Lajpat Rai and M. R. Jayakar and industrialist G. D. Birla, who paid most of the cash.
Soon differences cropped up between Panikkar and Malaviya, and Panikkar handed in his resignation. His charge was that Malaviya was converting the paper into a communal mouthpiece whereas it had already achieved a reputation as a political newspaper. The paper passed into the hands of G. D. Birla in 1927 and from then on it was conducted on a sound financial base.
From the outset, the newspaper was set up to oppose the British and espouse a nationalist cause. The Hindustan Times, like other nationalist newspapers, suffered during the various Satyagraha movements for supporting the Congress and it put up a brave fight against the restrictions imposed by the government and the harassment it was subjected to. It was one of the leading newspapers which gave news of the Satyagraha campaigns in bold type on its front pages to the maximum extent, an honour it shared with the Bombay Chronicle and the Free Press Journal. When the chief commissioner of Delhi issued an order in 1942 following the Quit India disturbances directing the Hindustan Times not to publish more than three columns of news about the disturbances, the editor, Devadas Gandhi4, defied it and was arrested and sentenced to a prison term. The Hindustan Times was one of the few newspapers that stopped publishing the newspaper for four and a half months in 1942 as it refused to accept the British imposition of censorship on newspapers.
The Hindustan Times has had a great galaxy of able editors besides Devadas Gandhi, including K. Rama Rao, K. Santhanam, Durga Prasad, and J. N. Sahni. Cartoonist Shankar worked in HT for long years.
Despite the turbulent political scenario and its nationalist stand – HT grew. The momentum gathered speed after independence. From a humble beginning in a three-story building, the company has presently expanded its operations from print to other media channels like radio, internet, events and marketing, and strategic partnerships, as part of its endeavour to establish itself as a giant media conglomerate. Though it was a Nationalist newspaper, it looked after its business well. In 1927 Hindustan Times, was reborn as Hindustan Times Ltd., a limited liability company. It also expanded. In 1936 The Hindi daily Hindustan was launched, which remains the dominant newspaper in the core Hindi belt of northern India. In 1960, the Hindi literary magazine Kadambini was launched. The group started actively targeting the youth of India and launched the Nandan magazine in 1964. With a focus on localization, five new editions for Calcutta, Bhopal, Ranchi, Chandigarh, and Jaipur were launched in 2000. Mumbai edition was launched on 14 July 2005. Fever 104 FM radio station was launched in 2006, in technical collaboration with the Virgin Group. Mint, the business paper in partnership with the Wall Street Journal was launched in Delhi and Mumbai in 2007. In the internet space, Hindustantimes.com was relaunched and Livemint.com was introduced. In 2008 Firefly e-Ventures, an HT Media Company launched its first portal for job seekers, Shine.com; and a social networking website Desimartini.com. HT Media also entered the Mobile space with 54242 in partnership with velti.com5.
- According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, it has a circulation of 1.16 million copies as of November 2015.
- The Indian Readership Survey 2014.
- Parthasarathy Rangaswami(1997), Journalism in India page 133, Sterling
- Devdas Gandhi was appointed the Managing Editor of the newspaper in 1937and remained the managing editor till his death in 1957.