In the age of repression and terror, gems were few and far between. The lack here was not of nationalist agenda, but of leaders. In an era before films, books and publishing were the only real ways of promulgating any kind of news or propaganda. Here we list some of the most influential efforts in the history of the Indian freedom struggle in the field of publishing.
Poverty and Un-British Rule in India – Dadabhai Naoroji
Published in 1901, Naoroji here spoke of how systematically the English had robbed the wealth of India. The “Grand Old Man of Indian Nationalism” on observing British rule in India found that there was always a positive balance of trade for India, the surplus was however appropriated by the English. This was termed as the “drain of wealth”.
The moderates and extremists of the Congress had put forward the idea of independence based on Naoroji’s theory. It can be said that is served as a basis for the entire freedom struggle.
Anandamath – Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay
Originally written in Bengali, it is one of the most important writings in Indian literature. Set against the context of 1771 Bengal famine, Bankim Chandra’s most important work was crucial in the creation of the revolutionary segment of the freedom struggle. As opposed to the times gone by, influenced by the book were a section of revolutionaries who were willing to sacrifice their life for the motherland. The book also marked the beginning of the Swadeshi Movement, which began the era of cultural nationalism. It being banned by the British gave it a sort of legitimacy with the oppressed masses.
Today, its legacy is felt in the heart of every Indian when they sing their national song – “Vande Mataram”.
New India – Annie Besant
Annie Besant, an Englishwoman, was tried for the publication of New India.
Born into an Irish family, residing in England, Besant was a fierce proponent of Indian self-rule and wrote boldly about it in her columns, due to which the government filed charges against her under the laws pertaining to sedition.
She also formed the Indian Home Rule League in 1916. Founded on theosophical principles, it reached its zenith by 1917 when it had 27000 members. A lot of members of the movement had political ambitions. Jawaharlal Nehru was also a part of it.
The Home Rule League began its decline with the onset of Gandhi’s Swadeshi movement, but her efforts, especially in New India cannot be underestimated.
Hind Swaraj – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Hind Swaraj was Gandhi’s magnum opus. Written on a boat from South Africa to London, in 1909, its original Gujarati version was banned by the British. It contained his beliefs on nationalism, race, communal unite, women and even the organization of society.
Gandhi’s vision of Indian self-rule or Swaraj had four principle aspects that included: independence from British rule, democratic governance, absence of social discrimination, and self-rule of India by Indians.
The book served to influence the entire freedom struggle, by highlighting his objectives for independent India. Till today, it serves as a guide for people who follow his philosophy.
“Looking at all of humanity, in this context, Hind Swaraj is very relevant. It is very relevant to know how to save this earth from complete self destruction, and how to teach humanity to live in harmony with everything around.”
-Professor Rinpoche, Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government in Exile
Kesari – Bal Gangadhar Tilak
“Kesari will fearlessly and impartially discuss all problems. The increasing mentality of appeasing the British is not in the interest of this country”
Founded in 1881, the Marathi newspaper acted as a mouthpiece for the leaders of the freedom movement. Its founder, publisher and editor, the late great Bal Gangadhar Tilak was tried under the government’s laws against sedition.
After pleading his case for twenty one hours and fourty minutes in court, the fiercely racist, anti-native judge Stachey found Tilak guilty.
His work, however, massively contributed to the extremist element in the Indian freedom movement.