Independence Day: Need for the noisy riffraff press

My grandmother told me stories of her mother who participated in the Quit India movement, and got arrest warrants issued on her name for writing seditious articles in her journal. She was one among thousands who took part in a political struggle by publishing something in a small printing press, often clandestinely.

India’s political awakening during the freedom struggle was led by a press that essentially self published. The large established newspapers did not necessarily take anti-establishment positions.

In terms of number of consumers, capacity to print out journals, the 1940s India was nowhere in comparison to present day India.

Yet, the impact of the media that was loud and clear.

Here is an interesting extract from Everyone loves a good drought – P. Sainath

As early as in 1893, Reuters assigned a correspondent, S.H.S. Merewether, to cover the famine-hit districts of this country. Apart from his reports, this resulted in a book, A tour through the Famine Districts of India. In it, he wrote that his assignment came about after a request Her Majesty’s Government had made of Reuters. The Raj, among other things, wanted to counter the riffraff of the nationalist press.

This is back in 1893, a when journals were published in numbers less than 1000s. The number of people who could read back then were probably less than 10% of the population. Yet, this press (media) was writing and reporting with moral authority. And it had caused enough noise for the colonial powers that be, to dispatch a correspondent to counter their arguments.

Compare India’s media today. It is massive. Seemingly free but highly controlled through varying overlapping layers of ownership and conflict of interests.

Here is a nugget of a video by P. Sainath.

We do need a noisy riffraff press that self publishes with some moral authority.

Happy Independence Day!

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