Social Scientist. v 27, no. 314-315 (July-Aug 1999) p. 11.

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Political Mobilization and the Underground Literature of the Quit India Movement, 1942-44

For nearly 100 years the Indian Congress organization has flourished in and through the press. Of the 72 representatives who gathered in Bombay at the first Congress meeting in 1885, more than a dozen were professional journalists.1 Not only did the early and subsequent nationalist leaders collect news for, editorialize in, or own outright, important vernacular and English-language newspapers - one thinks of, among others, Tilak's Kesari, Surendranath Banerjea's Bengalee,Motilal Nehru's Leader and Mahatma Gandhi's Young India and Harijan - but they readily submitted themselves to the curious, often naive probings of foreign correspondents from Europe and America. It was Gandhi who taught the Congress both how to spin its cotton and how, when it served a purpose, to wash its linen in public. Jawaharlal Nehru, when prime minister, brought to a high art the interview granted to the favoured Indian or foreign correspondent.

Underlying this conscious cultivation of public favour was a liberal belief in the dissemination of opinion and the exchange of ideas as necessary accompaniments to the new polity in India. The press came to be considered a necessary part of political life, not as standing in opposition to it. The irony of the same colonial government which had presided over the introduction of these liberal values proceeding quite ruthlessly to intimidate, censor and ban outright the unruly nationalist press has been well described and needs no elaboration.2 The fact is that despite periodic repression, the inner workings of the Congress and of the Indian political system as a whole have been transparent, with the result that Indian political life is more open to inspection than is the case in most other post-colonial societies.3

* Paul R Greenough, University of Iowa, Department of History, USA

Social Scientist, Vol. 27, Nos. 7- 8, July - August 1999

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