History has benefited much from literature. It has been and is still used as a propaganda weapon. Nevertheless, it is safe to argue that literature has contributed significantly to almost every significant historical revolution. Numerous books have been written regarding particular press-related incidents or the development of publisher independence in nations like England, the United States, and Nazi Germany. However, colonial countries have received much less attention than the homeland when it comes to the transmission of attitudes and legal norms. An illustration of this is British control in India. By the nineteenth century, public opinion and the legislation in England had established a climate that encouraged the almost unfettered interchange of news and opinions.
What occurred when Englishmen in India or native Indians tried to use a similar level of literary expertise? Press freedom in India is a topic for which there are currently no adequate explanations. Typically, historians start their research in the late 1700s, concentrate on now-famous instances of censorship and imprisonment during the following century, and then, if applicable, end with a brief summary of trends after 1900. The lack of study of the latter period is especially troubling because the conflict between the ruler (the Raj) and the ruled after 1900 focused on the struggle between cherished British intellectual traditions and the demands of control over a non-Western people. Key but little-known examples of official interference with press freedom include censorship, banning, and other forms of restriction.
The political process is centred around the interaction between the Government and the media. Government officials and journalists frequently disagree about the type of information shared with the public around the world, which may be inevitable. Sometimes the results of their fights are social or legal protections for the right to free speech; other times, censorship and the banning of publications seen to be harmful to “national interest,” “defence,” or “basic humanity.”
It would behove us to keep in mind the part played by pre-Independence literature in our fight for freedom as we commemorate 75 years of Independence (Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, as called by the Government.) The Indian liberation struggle has benefited much from literature. More and more writers started to utilise writing for patriotic reasons around the start of the nineteenth century, when nationalist sentiments started to flourish and the literature of the various Indian languages entered its modern era.
In truth, the majority of these authors actually held the belief that it is their responsibility as inhabitants of a slave nation to produce literature that will aid in national liberation and the general uplift of their community. A lot of intellectuals during the struggle for freedom thought it was crucial to use literature and poetry to promote patriotism and nationalist discourse. Newspapers like Bande Mataram, published in 1905 by Bipin Chandra Pal, Jungantar Patrika, published in 1906 by Barindra Kumar Ghosh, Abhinash Bhattacharya, and Bhupendranath Dutt, and Harijan, published in 1932 by Gandhi, all aimed to increase social and political awareness among Indian citizens as well as bring them together for a common goal. Written and circulated throughout India, pamphlets contained important information and promoted anti-British sentiment.
One such book which promoted patriotism via writing was Bankimchandra Chattopadhyay’s novel Anandamath (1882). The book was outlawed by the British, and it wasn’t until India’s Independence that the ban was repealed. The original version of our national anthem, Bande Mataram, appeared in this book as a poem. The protagonists used it as a source of inspiration and as a call to arms to fight the British. The public would recite the poetry or sing the song in front of British officials despite it being forbidden, and many were hauled off to jail for doing so. The first two verses of Bande Mataram were chosen as the nation’s anthem by the Indian National Congress in 1937 due to the song’s history of sacrifice and its success in uniting a people against the British.
Ram Prasad Bismil
Ram Prasad Bismil was born on June 1, 1897 at Shahjahanpur in North-Western Provinces. At the age of 18 years old, Bismil read the death sentence of Bhai Parmanand. Bismil formed a revolutionary group called Matrivedi and took help from Genda Lal Dixit. On January 28, 1918, Bismil published a pamphlet entitled Deshvasiyon Ke Nam Sandesh. Along with this, he distributed his poem named Mainpuri ki Pratigya. After Chauri Chaura incident in 1922, the youths formed the ‘Hindustan Republican Association’ for an armed revolution against the British Rule. Bismil was one of the chief founders of the Hindustan Republican Association (HRA).
Sanskrit scholar Pandita Kshama Devi Rao produced numerous books in Sanskrit, English, and Marathi. In the year 1931, Kshama Devi penned Satyagraha Gita. Gandhiji’s Dandi March and the Salt Satyagraha served as the basis for this work. Satyagraha Gita has 18 chapters, similar to Bhagavad Gita. The British colonial system prevented the publication of this wonderful book. This work was published in Paris in 1932 with the assistance of Silva Lehvi, another accomplished Sanskrit scholar. This was the first significant Sanskrit text to be published in Europe.
One of the rare books declassified by the National Archives of India is Netaji ke Saathi, which was also banned by the colonial government. The book, a 1946 publication, covers a variety of topics, including Lala Shankarlal’s involvement and the preparations he made for Netaji in Japan, the barbaric treatment of Netaji’s companions, and information about the officers of the Azad Hind Fauj and their role in the Indian Freedom Struggle. The book is dedicated to the martyrs who gave their entire lives in service to the cause of the Indian liberation fight by inspiring others to go to war and igniting the revolutionary spirit.
All said and done, one cannot forget to mention the Indian War of Independence 1857 written by Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. It is the first ever history book ever published, which stands out for having been outlawed even before it was released. His explosive writing had ignited the minds of the youth of that time and the British Government not only banned the book, but also sent the author to Andaman & Nicobar Islands to serve “Kaala Pani”. The book was banned for forty years.
As part of the Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav celebrations, the Culture Ministry has compiled catalogues of poems, writings, and publications that the British Raj forbade, chiefly because of their fervour for nationalism. On the project’s official website, the catalogues have been posted. These literary works are available in Bengali, Hindi, Urdu, Kannada, Punjabi, Sindhi, Telugu, Gujarati, and Tamil, among other Indian languages. The majority of these writings, which were written during India’s war for independence and were deemed “hazardous” to the “security” of British authority in India, are revolutionary in nature.
The Culture Ministry has enrolled Union Ministers to recite regionally specific poems that have been posted on the official website in an effort to increase public awareness of these literary masterpieces. The poem Daridra Nian by Odia poet Gangadhar Mishra is read aloud by Union Minister of Education Dharmendra Pradhan, while the Gujarati poem Kasumbi No Rang from the book Sindhudo by poet Jhaverchand Meghani and the Telugu poems Bharatha Matha Geetham are read aloud by Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Culture and Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy respectively. During the British era, each of these works was banned. From honouring the unsung independence fighters to celebrating India’s accomplishments via Dhara: Poems based on works of forbidden literature, an ode to Indian knowledge systems, the preservation of local history through a digital district repository, a celebration of India’s literary achievements, a look at the role that states played in the war for freedom, and more, is the mission of the government through this programme.