M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society: New Perspectives [1st ed.] 9783030590345, 9783030590352

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M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society: New Perspectives [1st ed.]
 9783030590345, 9783030590352

Table of contents :
Front Matter ....Pages i-xvii
Brief Introductory Remarks (Chandrika Kaul)....Pages 1-5
‘This cable … was not in my words’: Gandhi, the Telegraph and Political Communication in the British Empire (Amelia Bonea)....Pages 7-24
Gandhi’s Evolving Discourse on Leprosy (Sanjiv Kakar)....Pages 25-41
The Global Gandhi of the Muslim Vernacular Press: Mahatma as Monumental Peasant and the Prophetic Rose in the Urdu Pamphlets of an Early Twentieth-Century Delhi Sufi (Timothy S. Dobe)....Pages 43-60
Gandhi and the Bengali Intellectuals: Perceptions and Portrayal of His Ideas in Contemporary Vernacular Journals in the 1920s and 1930s (Sarvani Gooptu)....Pages 61-76
Gandhi and Broadcasting: Missing Narratives in Media, Nationalism and the Raj (Chandrika Kaul)....Pages 77-105
Gandhi and the Muslim League: The Dawn in 1947 (Gopa Sabharwal)....Pages 107-126
Gandhi in August 1947: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture and the Republic of Letters (Anjana Sharma)....Pages 127-142
A Modern Mahatma? Use and Misuse of Gandhi in Popular Culture (Mei Li Badecker)....Pages 143-157
Back Matter ....Pages 159-168

Citation preview


M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society New Perspectives Edited by Chandrika Kaul

Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media Series Editors Bill Bell Cardiff University Cardiff, UK Chandrika Kaul University of St Andrews St Andrews, Scotland, UK Alexander S. Wilkinson University College Dublin Dublin, Ireland

Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media publishes original, high quality research into the cultures of communication from the middle ages to the present day. The series explores the variety of subjects and disciplinary approaches that characterize this vibrant field of enquiry. The series will help shape current interpretations not only of the media, in all its forms, but also of the powerful relationship between the media and politics, society, and the economy. Advisory Board Professor Peter Burke (Emmanuel College, Cambridge) Professor Nicholas Cull (University of Southern California) Professor Bridget Griffen-Foley (Macquarie University) Professor Monica Juneja (Heidelberg University) Professor Tom O’Malley (Aberystwyth University) More information about this series at http://www.palgrave.com/gp/series/14578

Chandrika Kaul Editor

M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society New Perspectives

Editor Chandrika Kaul University of St Andrews St Andrews, Scotland, UK

ISSN 2634-6575     ISSN 2634-6583 (electronic) Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media ISBN 978-3-030-59034-5    ISBN 978-3-030-59035-2 (eBook) https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2 © The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 This work is subject to copyright. All rights are solely and exclusively licensed by the Publisher, whether the whole or part of the material is concerned, specifically the rights of translation, reprinting, reuse of illustrations, recitation, broadcasting, reproduction on microfilms or in any other physical way, and transmission or information storage and retrieval, electronic adaptation, computer software, or by similar or dissimilar methodology now known or hereafter developed. The use of general descriptive names, registered names, trademarks, service marks, etc. in this publication does not imply, even in the absence of a specific statement, that such names are exempt from the relevant protective laws and regulations and therefore free for general use. The publisher, the authors and the editors are safe to assume that the advice and information in this book are believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication. Neither the publisher nor the authors or the editors give a warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the material contained herein or for any errors or omissions that may have been made. The publisher remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations. Cover illustration: Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock Photo This Palgrave Macmillan imprint is published by the registered company Springer Nature Switzerland AG. The registered company address is: Gewerbestrasse 11, 6330 Cham, Switzerland

To Mum and Radha for always being there for me


To commemorate Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in October 2019, David Bulla and I organised an international conference in St Andrews and early versions of all but two of the chapters in this book were delivered as papers on that occasion. I am grateful to the School of History for the award of a conference grant and to David (University of Augusta) for putting the conference programme together. Lorna Harris played a stellar role in arranging the myriad practical details of the conference, Margaret MacDonald helped with the registration, and Emma Morris was an excellent researcher. I am very grateful for their assistance. I would like to thank Palgrave Macmillan for permission to use select material from my Chaps. 3 and 4 in Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, Britain and India in the Twentieth Century (2014, 2017). I am deeply indebted to Tom O’Malley and Ed Hirschmann for their helpful suggestions on Chap. 6. My deep thanks to Dr Malcolm Dunstan for his support, and for permission to cite from E.C. Dunstan’s unpublished memoirs, as well as to Louise North for granting permission from the BBC Written Archives Centre. BBC copyright content is reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation. Last, but by no means least, I owe a massive thank you to Emily Russell and her assistant Joe Johnson at Palgrave Macmillan, for their prompt and unstinting support. The final stages of the research for these chapters were undertaken during the challenging circumstances of the international lockdown due to Covid-19. We would be grateful for the indulgence of you, the reader, for any errors of fact or shortcomings in interpretation. vii


1 Brief Introductory Remarks  1 Chandrika Kaul 2 ‘This cable … was not in my words’: Gandhi, the Telegraph and Political Communication in the British Empire  7 Amelia Bonea 3 Gandhi’s Evolving Discourse on Leprosy 25 Sanjiv Kakar 4 The Global Gandhi of the Muslim Vernacular Press: Mahatma as Monumental Peasant and the Prophetic Rose in the Urdu Pamphlets of an Early Twentieth-Century Delhi Sufi 43 Timothy S. Dobe 5 Gandhi and the Bengali Intellectuals: Perceptions and Portrayal of His Ideas in Contemporary Vernacular Journals in the 1920s and 1930s 61 Sarvani Gooptu




6 Gandhi and Broadcasting: Missing Narratives in Media, Nationalism and the Raj 77 Chandrika Kaul 7 Gandhi and the Muslim League: The Dawn in 1947107 Gopa Sabharwal 8 Gandhi in August 1947: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture and the Republic of Letters127 Anjana Sharma 9 A Modern Mahatma? Use and Misuse of Gandhi in Popular Culture143 Mei Li Badecker Appendix159 Index165


ABP Ananda Bazar Patrika AIR All India Radio AP Associated Press of America API Associated Press of India Autobiography Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth BBC British Broadcasting Corporation BELRA British Empire Leprosy Relief Association BL British Library, London Congress Indian National Congress CW Mahatma Gandhi Collected Works HJ Harijan HS Hind Swaraj IBC Indian Broadcasting Company Ltd IO Indian Opinion ISBS Indian State Broadcasting Service KGT Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust LI Leprosy in India MGF Mahatma Gandhi ka Faislah MSM Maharogi Seva Mandal NAI National Archives of India, New Delhi NYT New York Times PHS Presbyterian Historical Society RTC Second Round Table Conference TLM The Leprosy Mission ToI Times of India





United Press of America BBC Written Archives Centre, Caversham Young India

Notes on Contributors

Mei  Li  Badecker  holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Italian from DePaul University, Chicago. She has presented her research at various conferences including at DePaul University, where she spoke about “Reading Gandhi in the Era of ‘Cancel Culture’: The Incomplete Portrayal of a ‘Mahatma’.” Amelia Bonea  is a research fellow at the Centre for Transcultural Studies, University of Heidelberg. She was educated at the Universities of Tokyo and Heidelberg and worked for five years as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford. Her work focuses on the modern and contemporary history of South Asia and the British Empire, with a particular interest in media, science, technology and medicine. Her projects to date have explored the incorporation of “new” technologies of communication into journalism in the nineteenth century and the relationship between technology and public health/medical practice. Her first monograph, The News of Empire: Telegraphy, Journalism, and the Politics of Reporting in Colonial India, c. 1830–1900, was awarded the 2017 Eugenia M.  Palmegiano Prize by the American Historical Association for the best book on the history of journalism in any area of the world. Timothy S. Dobe  is Professor of South Asian Religions, Grinnell College, Iowa, where he teaches courses on Hinduism, Bollywood and religion, Gandhi, Global Christianities and Religious Violence and Nonviolence. His research focuses on comparative religions, traditions of sainthood and asceticism and postcolonialism, pluralism, nonviolence and postsecular xiii


Notes on Contributors

thought. His book about Hindu and Christian holy men (faqirs) of colonial north India came out with OUP in 2015. In 2017, he was awarded an ACLS Burkhardt Fellowship for his new research on Gandhi and Islam and worked on this project as Scholar in Residence at Duke University’s Islamic Studies Center during 2018–2019. Sarvani  Gooptu  is Professor of Asian Literary and Cultural Studies in Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata. Her main areas of research are Nationalism and Culture in colonial and post-colonial period. Among her publications are The Actress in the Public Theatres of Calcutta and The Music of Nationhood: Dwijendralal Roy of Bengal, and a co-edited volume On Modern Indian Sensibilities: Culture, Politics, History. At present she is working on two books, Knowing Asia: Being Asian: Cosmopolitanism and Nationalism in Bengali Periodicals (1860s–1940s) and Women’s Travel Narratives: East and West. Sanjiv  Kakar  is Associate Professor at the University of Delhi in the College of Vocational Studies. His main areas of research are around leprosy in British India and Gandhian studies. He has published in Oral History, Medical History and Social Scientist and has participated in numerous seminars, including at the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London and Oxford, and at the International Leprosy Association Global Project on the History of Leprosy (London, 2003). He also writes for media, mostly in the Times of India, on aspects of peace and non-violence; see especially “Agitation and Ahimsa” (28 August 2011) and “The Art of Peaceful Dissent” (15 April 2018). Chandrika  Kaul, MA (Oxon), DPhil (Oxon)  is Reader in Modern History at the University of St Andrews, Scotland. Her monographs include Reporting the Raj, the British Press and India (Studies in Imperialism series) and Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience: Britain and India in the Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan 2014, 2017). Her edited and co-edited books include Media and the British Empire (Palgrave Macmillan 2006, 2013); Explorations in Modern Indian History and the Media (Media History 2009); International Communications and Global News Networks; News of the World and the British Press 1843–2011 (Palgrave Macmillan 2015); and Media and the Portuguese Empire (Palgrave Macmillan 2017). Dr Kaul sits on the Advisory and Editorial Boards of the journals Media History (Routledge) and Twentieth Century British History (OUP).

  Notes on Contributors 


Gopa Sabharwal  founded the undergraduate Department of Sociology at India’s foremost liberal Arts College, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, in 1993. She was a Fulbright Scholar in Residence in 2006 at Chatham College for Women (now Chatham University), Pittsburgh. From 2010 to 2016, she served as founding Vice Chancellor, Nalanda University, entrusted with giving shape to the vision of establishing a new Nalanda for the twenty-first century. Gopa’s books include Ethnicity and Class: Social Divisions in an Indian City; The Indian Millennium- A.D.1000 to A.D.2000 and India Since 1947: The Independent Years. Her research interests focus on ethnic identities, everyday life in India, visual anthropology and the history of society. Anjana Sharma  (PhD, Penn State University) teaches at the Department of English, University of Delhi, and was Founding Dean, Academic Planning, Nalanda University (2011–2015). Her research interests span revolutionary print and visual culture, British literature of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and questions of gender. Her representative works are The Autobiography of Desire: English Women Novelists of the 1790s (ed.), Frankenstein: Gender, Culture, and Identity, and (co-eds.) Agamemnon’s Mask: Greek Tragedy and Beyond. Two additional edited volumes include Civilizational Dialogue: Asian Interconnections and Cross Cultural Exchanges and Records, Recoveries, Remnants and Inter-Asian Interconnections: Decoding Cultural Heritage. She was the recipient of the Fulbright Fellowship in 2001 and was Senior Fellow, Nalanda Sriwijiya Center and Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore, 2016.

List of Figures

Fig. 4.1 Fig. 4.2 Fig. 6.1

Fig. 9.1

Cover image, illustration, H. Nizami, Mahatma Gandhi ka Faisla, 1919 46 Rose, illustration, H. Nizami, Gandhinama, 1922 53 Mahatma Gandhi at the All India Radio headquarters in New Delhi from where he gave a broadcast message to refugees, November 1947. Contributor: Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock Photo96 Mural of Gandhi in Pittsburgh, designed by Adelaide Cole. (Photograph taken by author in Pittsburgh) 152



Brief Introductory Remarks Chandrika Kaul

Abstract  This very brief chapter summarises the themes covered in the eight case studies featured in the book, beginning in the late nineteenth century and concluding with twenty-­ first-­ century representations of Gandhi in popular culture. Keywords  Gandhi • Media • Politics • Society • Culture

Mohandas Gandhi or Mahatma Gandhi is one of the most iconic figures in modern history and arguably needs little introduction. A key protagonist in the anti-imperial struggles in South Africa and India from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, his advocacy of non-violent civil disobedience and adherence to truth has influenced generations around the globe. Far from diminishing with the passage of time, as Markovits notes, “his message to the world appears uniquely relevant.”1

C. Kaul (*) University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_1




Gandhi was born on 2 October 1869, in Porbandar, Gujarat, on India’s western seaboard. In 1888 he left for London to train as a barrister and returned home to practice law in 1891. After an unsuccessful few years trying to establish himself professionally, he eventually relocated to the Colony of Natal in South Africa in 1893. Though Gandhi considered himself a loyal subject of the British empire, he took up the fight against racial discrimination—what he called “the disease of colour prejudice”—to support the immigrant Indian communities in the South African colonies and in the Dominion of South Africa from 1907. Though remaining a loyalist after his return to India in 1915, he came to disavow any sympathy with the British Raj, considering it “satanic,” after its failure to atone fully for the largest massacre in the history of its modern empire perpetrated in Amritsar on 13 April 1919. Over a long career, Gandhi launched numerous small and large-scale satyagrahas—truth force—campaigns against imperial and indigenous oppression and inequalities. As part of the Indian National Congress, he led three national non-co-­operation and civil disobedience movements in 1920–22, 1930–34 and 1942 and was indefatigable in promoting inter alia rural economic development, social equality and communal amity. Despite enjoying immense political and personal esteem and popularity throughout his life, nevertheless Gandhi also served to divide opinion at home and overseas, a trend that has continued since his murder in 1948. He could be inconsistent and contradictory in speech and action and has been accused of social dogmatism, cultural conservatism and political naiveté. However, through it all there was one outstanding aspect of Gandhi’s persona and praxis: his faith in, and engagement with, the press and publicity. He both made the news and was the news. Gandhi referred to himself as a “newspaperman,” edited four periodicals over his lifetime, two of which he established—Indian Opinion in South Africa (1903) and Harijan in India (1933)—and contributed regularly to several others. He was multilingual, writing fluently in English, his mother tongue, Gujarati, as well as in Hindi or Hindustani. Nevertheless, Gandhi was not universally lauded or routinely supported by the Fourth Estate. He was also prone to bouts of anger and disappointment at what he considered lies and distortions in the media, as well as accusing journalists, for instance, during 1946–47, of fomenting communal and sectarian discord. There exist numerous works exploring this multi-faceted man and leader, and the purpose of this short edited collection is not to engage in depth with Gandhi’s life or evaluate his place in the history of modern India. What the essays aim to do is to centre-stage the media, broadly



defined, and explore Gandhi in national and international settings, drawing inspiration from several disciplinary fields including history, politics, literary and religious studies, media and popular culture. The authors analyse Gandhi’s discourse and engagement with various media technologies as well as how advocacy groups, politicians, journalists, intellectuals and media organisations interpreted his rhetoric, methodology and image. The timeframe of the book extends from the late nineteenth century up to the present. Some broad themes have emerged in this process. Chapters 2 and 6 consider Gandhi and electronic media. Amelia Bonea in Chap. 2 examines Gandhi’s interaction with the electric telegraph in South Africa during the late nineteenth century and the corresponding debate about machines and technology. Bonea argues that far from being a techno-sceptic, he had an extraordinary ability to use the telegraph as a tool for political communication, whether in the form of telegraphic petitions sent to colonial authorities, interacting with his collaborators or the perusal of telegraphic news for journalistic purposes. She also situates Gandhi’s discourse and use of telegraphy within the longue duree and a tradition of petitioning in the British empire that can be traced back to the Great Rebellion of 1857–58. The inter-war years of the twentieth century is when Gandhi strode the global stage and was transformed into an international icon. Chandrika Kaul discusses Gandhi from the late 1920s till his murder in 1948, through the prism of the media and specifically the medium of broadcasting (Chap. 6). These years were a watershed in international communications due in large part to the efflorescence of radio. Gandhi’s relationship with radio and with broadcasters, including employees of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) who came to work for All India Radio (AIR), highlights a fascinating though neglected aspect of his oeuvre. Examining both the institution and the individuals involved in broadcasting, Kaul also allocates a critical role to the American media in the Gandhi narrative. His live broadcasts are analysed against the backdrop of the entangled histories of media and imperialism under the Raj. She concludes by discussing how Gandhi’s interaction with radio evolved after Independence, and questions whether radio was the media-savvy Mahatma’s blind spot. A significant dimension of Gandhi as a social reformer was his use of the press to champion myriad causes over his lifetime. Leprosy was one of these and it forms the subject of Chap. 3 by Sanjiv Kakar. Setting himself up as effectively a health correspondent in his papers Indian Opinion,



Young India and Harijan, Gandhi took an abiding interest in new treatments and made numerous site visits to hospitals and asylums. Though there were shifts in Gandhi’s media advocacy, which evolved over time, Kakar suggests that overall it was cautious, secular and carefully constructed, reflecting the latest medical opinions and representing leprosy as a public health issue. This runs counter to a large number of studies, Kakar claims, which argue that Gandhi was unequivocally opposed to modern medicine. Political unification and the rise of nationalism have been attributed to the impact of print which “turned each vernacular into an extensive mass medium.”2 Gandhi stressed the key role of vernacular literacy and print in the anti-imperial struggle and cultural awakening. In addition to those in English mentioned above, Gandhi also edited and contributed to journals in Gujarati and Hindi. Chapters 4 and 5 focus on the role of the vernacular press as a platform for debating the Mahatma and as a means of employing his rhetoric and image for furthering their own agendas. Timothy Dobe in Chap. 4 examines the Urdu writer Khwaja Hasan Nizami’s popular writings on Gandhi, which he claims have been ignored. He focuses on the most creative of these self-published, hand-illustrated, vernacular texts, Gandhinama, situating it within Nizami’s journalistic role among leading Urdu press figures of the 1910s and 1920s such as Abul Kalam Azad. The chapter offers a literary and religious studies reading of this imagined tale of Nizami’s own future world tour that assesses Gandhi’s global, rather than only his South Asian, legacies and reputation. Dobe argues that an understanding of Nizami’s work goes beyond current scholarship by contributing particular Sufi and internationalist pan-Islamist perspectives that challenged nationalist versions of an emergent “Mahatma.” In Chap. 5, Sarvani Gooptu considers the debate over Gandhi and his ideas as conducted via journals in Bengali. She evaluates the literary discourse of leading Bengali intellectuals including women, in over forty articles and poems published in Bangabani, Bharati, Bharatvarsha, Bichitra and Prabashi, in the period 1916–40. Despite the so-called complicated relationship between Bengal and the Mahatma, Gooptu argues that a careful study of such popular literary periodicals reveals how Gandhi’s personality and his proposals for constructive nationalism through khadi and charkha had a deep impact. The endgame of empire inevitably looms large with Chapters 7 and 8 focusing on the climactic months of 1947 but from differing perspectives. In Chap. 7, Gopa Sabharwal offers a micro-study of the coverage of



Gandhi in the Dawn newspaper, owned by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, President of the Muslim League. The Dawn, published from New Delhi, presented itself as the official and only authentic voice of Muslims and was hostile to the idea of Indian nationalism as set out in the mainstream media. She argues that the portrayal of Gandhi makes for interesting reading both on account of what the paper chose to cover and for what it left out. Gandhi’s work among refugees and victims of communal violence is reported, but the Mahatma is accused of being inconsistent, unfair, partisan and a master strategist. His prayer meetings are viewed as vehicles for propaganda calculated to jeopardise Muslim interests. Anjana Sharma’s chapter is concerned with how Gandhi was fashioned, circulated and consumed during 1947 by the largely urban readers of English-language newspapers, particularly the Hindustan Times in New Delhi and the Statesman in Calcutta (Chap. 8). In the case of the former, Sharma examines how a centrist, nationalist newspaper with strong familial connections in the shape of the editor, Devdas Gandhi, historicised and represented the Mahatma. How did the Statesman, a British-owned newspaper— struggling with its own complicity with imperial power in a city that was far removed from its glory days—respond to the phenomenon that was Gandhi at a time of seismic change, violence and incendiary politics? The final chapter, Chap. 9, offers insights into contemporary popular culture and how Gandhi’s image has become simultaneously both unique and commonplace in the twenty-first century. Mei Li Badecker, herself a young student, offers a wide selection of representations of Gandhi from graffiti and street art to the song “Venom” by American rapper Eminem and the song “Gandhi” by the Italian singer/songwriter Mannarino, to television shows such as NBC’s The Good Place and Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj. She examines public murals in Delhi, Mumbai, New York City and Pittsburgh and offers insights into why Gandhi’s iconography helped further a particular message. Badecker contends that the way Gandhi is portrayed in popular culture, while making him accessible to a new generation across the world, nevertheless often serves also to misrepresent his actual beliefs.

Notes 1. C. Markovits, The UnGandhian Gandhi, London 2003, p. 1. 2. M. McLuhan, Understanding Media, London 1973 edn, p. 189. See also B. Anderson, Imagined Communities, London 1983.


‘This cable … was not in my words’: Gandhi, the Telegraph and Political Communication in the British Empire Amelia Bonea

Abstract  This chapter re-examines Gandhi’s prolific record as a political communicator from the perspective of the technologies of communication he employed during his South African years. It focuses in particular on his discourses and practices of telegraphy, an important tool of communication in a broader and interrelated media environment that also included letters, newspapers and speeches. The chapter makes an argument for Gandhi’s critical use of telegraphy, demonstrating how he moved beyond a simple critique of technology to imagine a different instrumentality for it. Keywords  South Africa • Telegraph • Political communication I wish to thank Arvind Das, Teja Varma Pusapati and Benjamin Zachariah for their useful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. A. Bonea (*) University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_2




Mahatma Gandhi was a master political communicator and strategist. In trying to understand the recipe behind his remarkable ability to mobilize large swathes of the Indian population into anti-colonial resistance, scholars have often turned their attention to the unique combination of thought and action that characterized his life. They noted his diligence and determination, his penchant for meticulousness as well as the multitude of channels and forms of expression he used to convey his message to potential audiences. Gandhi read, wrote and spoke in public, and he did so prolifically. He also walked, worked, fasted and prayed. According to Perry Anderson, his charisma as a leader was matched by equally impressive abilities as an organizer, fund-raiser and mediator, if not always by oratory skills. Indeed, his vast work, amounting to a hundred volumes of ‘articles, books, letters, cables (far exceeding the output of Marx or Lenin, let alone Mao),’ is a fitting testimony to his extraordinary communication skills.1 In Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s more evocative formulation, Gandhi had the ‘mastery of the dramatic gestures that could symbolically make a dent into any ideology like no one else could.’2 In this chapter, I propose to examine a relatively neglected facet of Gandhian communication practices, namely the interplay of technologies of communication and media techniques that enabled his messages to circulate in the first place. I hope to show that Gandhi’s lifework offers significant insights into the history of mediated politics, including, perhaps surprisingly, the mediation of politics through ‘modern’ technologies of communication like the electric telegraph. What we know about Gandhi’s interactions with media of communication usually comes from analyses of his work as a journalist or attempts to mine his writings in order to understand his ideas about the role of science and technology in society. Isabel Hofmeyr’s recent exploration of Gandhian text-making and theory of reading is a fine example of the former type of works. Drawing in particular on his South African journalism, her account emphasizes Gandhi’s ability to exploit the malleability of different media and textual forms—periodicals, newspapers, mails, exchanges, summaries, news reports, (the lack of) advertisements—all strategically employed to mount a critique of modernity in word as well as deed. As Hofmeyr cogently observes, Gandhi’s ‘slow reading’—a reading that obeyed the pace of the human body—was an ‘experiment’ in ‘pausing industrial speed’ and ‘creat[ing] small moments of intellectual independence.’3 Gandhi’s ideas about science and technology have also attracted scholarly enquiry, although studies in this vein continue to represent a small



section of the sizeable body of works that have examined his life. In contrast to the image of a technosceptic or a Luddite that seems to have gained traction in popular culture, these analyses usually paint a more nuanced picture of his interactions with technology. Ashis Nandy, for example, cautions that Gandhi did not reject modern technology as such, but rather the reductionist technologism associated with it—the ideology of progress that equates technology with Western modernity and seeks to cure the social ills it causes with the help of more (and better) technology. Gandhi’s proffered solutions were usually located outside the perimeter of technology since, Nandy points out, ‘[he] judged a technology, not on the grounds of what it was, but on the grounds of what it replaced, represented or symbolized.’4 Other scholars have also emphasized Gandhi’s critical stance towards dependence on technology, in particular the ways in which technology ‘umbilicalized’ modern subjects and robbed them of their agency.5 For Gandhi technology was not a neutral means to an end: the contexts of use mattered, as did the end itself. He deplored the ‘reduction of reason to instrumental rationality,’ but it would be misleading to assume that his ideas about technology could be reduced to a mere rejection of it or that such ideas were static and undifferentiated.6 A good illustration of this point comes from Breckenridge’s analysis of Gandhi’s struggle with the Transvaal state over the system of fingerprint identity registration for Indian and Chinese immigrants. What Breckenridge documents in this case is ‘progressive disillusionment,’ which saw Gandhi gradually move from a position in which he had previously extolled the ‘scientific virtues of ten-print legislation’ to a firm rejection of Western technologism by 1908, a stance he went on to articulate in public speeches and in Hind Swaraj (hereafter, HS), published the next year.7 Telegraphs, telephones and railways, the ubiquitous technologies of acceleration of the nineteenth century and salient symbols of ‘Western civilization,’ were not, Gandhi argued in 1908, a measure of ‘Christian progress.’8 The shift in Gandhi’s attitude towards modern science and technology during the last years of his stay in South Africa is well known. Less recognized is the fact that his pronouncements about technology underwent reformulations over the following decades, his stubborn defence of HS notwithstanding. If in HS Gandhi declared ‘all machinery’ to be ‘bad,’ in an 1924 interview with G. Ramachandran his objection became more specifically aimed at ‘the craze for machinery, not machinery as such,’ in particular the manner in which ‘labour-saving machinery’ functioned as a tool



of exploitation of the many by the few (and of Indians by the British).9 A speech delivered at Poona two years prior to his death also suggested a narrower definition of machinery as ‘an appliance that tended to displace human or animal labour instead of supplementing it or merely increasing its efficiency,’ and proceeded to decry the growing automaticity of modern technology and its uncontrolled multiplication.10 In this chapter, I wish to take the discussion of Gandhi’s engagement with technology a step further, by focusing on his practice of ‘modern’ technology, as opposed to his theory of it. I am concerned in particular with how Gandhi used ‘new’ technologies like the telegraph for purposes of political communication.11 Put simply, the question I wish to address could be formulated as follows: How do we reconcile accounts of Gandhi’s scepticism towards modern technology with his remarkable record as a public communicator via technologies of communication like the telegraph? Gandhi’s Collected Works (hereafter CW) provide abundant evidence of his extraordinary ability to use this technology as a tool for political communication, whether in the form of telegraphic petitions sent to colonial authorities in South Africa, regular exchanges of telegrams or ‘cablegrams,’ as he often called them, with political collaborators and the newspaper press, or the perusal of telegraphic news for journalistic purposes. One episode, in particular, offers valuable insights into his perceptions of telegraphy as an instrument of communication: a violent encounter in Natal that followed his return from India in 1896 and almost led to his lynching at the hands of a white mob. Gandhi linked this outcome to a mischievous Reuters telegram and subsequent newspaper reports that, he alleged, had misrepresented the content of his Green Pamphlet, a well-­ known publication outlining the ‘grievances’ of Indians in South Africa published the same year. How then are we to evaluate Gandhi’s practice of technology, in light of his theory of it? Is this another example of his penchant for inconsistency, as diagnosed, amongst others, by Anderson and Banerjee, who has remarked that ‘Gandhi’s thinking does not give itself over easily to systematicity or coherence’?12 To be sure, Gandhi himself was aware of this dilemma. The section on ‘Machinery’ in HS ends fittingly with the Reader asking the Editor the following question: ‘Is it a good point or a bad one that all you are saying will be printed through machinery?’ The answer, I will argue, offers some clues as to how to understand the slippages between Gandhi’s theory and practice of telegraphy: ‘This is one of those instances



which demonstrate that sometimes poison is used to kill poison. This, then, will not be a good point regarding machinery.’13 The chapter reconstructs Gandhi’s discourses and practices of telegraphy during his time in South Africa—broadly speaking, the period from 1893 until WWI—based on a survey of relevant writings published as part of his CW. I begin with an overview of the role that the electric telegraph has played, historically, in processes of political communication and mass persuasion and continue with a discussion of the contexts in which Gandhi himself made use of this technology. The analysis pays particular attention to the ways in which the telegraph was employed alongside other media like letters and the newspaper press and how messages were calibrated and translated across different registers of presentation in order to become effective instruments of political communication. The chapter encourages us to think about technologies and their use inter-relationally, as part of a broader communication environment that includes multiple technologies, human actors and institutions. In so doing, I hope, furthermore, to reflect on what this teaches us more broadly about the use of technologies of communication for purposes of political participation and persuasion, a topic that continues to be of relevance today. As the chapter discusses, the Green Pamphlet incident is instructive in the context of Gandhi’s broader critique of the instrumentality of technology, but it also provides an important lesson in media literacy, in particular with regard to contemporary experiments in information technology-mediated journalism and politics.

The Telegraph as a Technology of Political Communication Technologies of communication are central to processes of political communication and participation. The anti-Brexit electronic petition that attracted more than 6 million signatures and the allegations of Russian meddling in the American presidential elections of 2016 are pertinent examples of how various sections of society use the latest information technologies to intervene in political processes—in these particular cases by attempting to catalyse protest around a common issue or by seeking to influence voter behaviour. Events like these highlight both the opportunities and the dangers associated with the use of technologies of communication for political electioneering and mass persuasion purposes. They



raise important questions about the need for and viability of Internet regulation, the meaning of freedom of expression in an era of ‘fake news’ and polarizing politics and the role of media literacy in helping us to address some of these challenges. We have become accustomed to think about the underlying communication practices these contemporary events reveal as revolutionary and exceptional, but the use of technologies of communication for political participation and persuasion as well as the ethical dilemmas they raise are far from new. One technology in particular warrants closer examination, not least because it has often been touted, albeit misleadingly, as a nineteenth-­ century version of the Internet: the electric telegraph. Developed in the United States and Britain in the 1830s–1840s and opened for public use in colonial India in 1855, the telegraph used electric signals to transmit messages over long distances in an increasingly timely manner. By 1866, a trans-Atlantic cable linked the ‘Old’ and the ‘New World’; four years later, Britain was connected with India via the Red Sea, followed in quick succession by Singapore (1870), Hong Kong (1871), Australia (1871) and South Africa (1879).14 The history of telegraphy has witnessed something of a revival in recent years, but research about its use for political action continues to be a neglected field. One notable exception is Zhou’s comparison between the role of the Internet as a tool for political participation in contemporary China and that of the telegraph during the late Qing period. His book is a cautionary tale about technological utopias—the internet as an instrument of democratization being one of them—and the contingency of technology, with relevance for Gandhi’s own rejection of technological determinism. Equally important are his findings about the manner in which telegrams and the newspaper press were employed complementarily by Chinese civic groups at the end of the nineteenth century for maximum publicity and political impact.15 This latter point is supported by Vezzadini’s shorter study of anti-colonial resistance in Sudan, which also reveals that despite their high cost and potential to become ‘bottlenecked,’ telegrams, usually addressed to international politicians and the press, represented a convenient method of publicizing political messages, more so because they enabled senders to ‘bypass spatial and social hierarchies.’16 Furthermore, as the discussion of Gandhi’s practices of telegraphy also demonstrates, telegraphic communication enjoyed a certain degree of prestige that proved important to users and was often strategically manipulated.17



Another example of the interrelationship between various forms of communication—in this case, telegrams, reading aloud, local newspapers and the international press—comes from Carol Summers’s examination of telegrams and politics in the Ugandan Protectorate during the period 1945–1955. Her conclusion that speed was not as significant for political telegraphic communication as the affective closeness this technology mediated offers an important corrective to previous literature that has emphasized, quite rightly, the association between telegraphy, modernity and acceleration. However, in so doing, it has also neglected to take stock of the role that emotions have played in the use of telegraphy for political and journalistic purposes, often reproducing uncritically nineteenth-century notions that telegrams only communicated dry, factual information. Summers thus offers a rare insight into how telegraphy mediated political emotions, by helping to build a community of feeling between senders and recipients or among the crowds that attended political meetings in the 1940s, where such dispatches were often read out loud.18 The Green Pamphlet incident discussed in this chapter offers another example of such mediation, while nevertheless showing that its outcome was the opposite of the affective closeness documented by Summers.

Gandhi’s Practices of Telegraphy We have become so accustomed to think about Gandhi as an ‘instinctive communicator through pre-modern channels,’ to use Robin Jeffrey’s phrase, that we often forget to account for the ways in which he did engage with modern technologies of communication as well. 19 Gandhi’s CW are replete with references to ‘telegrams,’ ‘cablegrams,’ ‘cables’ or ‘wires’ sent and received. For reasons of manageability, the present discussion focuses on his activity in South Africa, but his use of telegraphy continued after his return to India. In 1924, for example, we find him sending a telegraphic petition to the International Opium Conference in Geneva demanding a ban on opium production, except for medical purposes. The message was endorsed by 206,000 signatures, an astonishing feat that puts today’s online petitions into sharp historical context.20 Gandhi’s use of telegraphy for political purposes ranged from regular exchanges with his many collaborators to petitioning, as above, the colonial and imperial authorities to protest the injustices perpetrated against Indians in Natal and Transvaal. The list of his ‘virtual’ interlocutors is long. It included familiar names like his nephew Chhanganlal Gandhi;



Joseph Chamberlain, Secretary of State for the Colonies; the Governor of Natal, Walter Hely-Hutchinson; Lord Ampthill, who went on to become the President of the South Africa British Indian Committee upon his return to England in 1906; and various members of the Committee, in particular Dadabhai Naoroji, Ameer Ali, Henry Polak, Lewis W. Ritch and George Birdwood. Like many of his compatriots and Victorian contemporaries, Gandhi decried the rush and oppression of modern life, but also lived by the rhythm of the telegraph, the quintessential technology of speed of the nineteenth century.21 In a recent study, Biswajit Das observes that ‘during the course of the national movement, [Gandhi] did develop an instrumentalist relationship with modern technology. He used it, but without really becoming a slave of it.’22 The latter part of this argument might be more difficult to probe, at least in the formulation presented here, but the former is not—in fact, as this chapter discusses, Gandhi’s ‘instrumentalist relationship’ with modern technologies of communication predated his involvement in the Indian national movement. What is more, being an effective communicator meant that he was not necessarily a patient one. The telegraph was a technology that economized time and Gandhi used it as such: during his stay in South Africa, we often find him requesting interlocutors to forsake the medium of the letter for the speedier alternative of a telegram, especially when the matter at hand was ‘urgent.’23 Even in the late 1920s, when he penned a vehement response to the Communist MP Shapurji Saklatvala, denouncing his defence of the ‘modern rush’ and insisting that he ‘whole-heartedly detest[ed] this mad desire to destroy distance and time,’ Gandhi continued to send wire after persistent wire, on occasion anxiously awaiting reply ‘without fail’ and even scolding a forgetful Mahadev Desai for the ‘unpardonable’ omission to send a telegram as instructed.24 Just how important communication by means of telegraph was for Gandhi is also clear from the deal he struck with the Indian merchants in Durban, when he agreed to remain in South Africa to assist them in the fight against the colonial government’s growing encroachment on their rights.25 As DiSalvo points out, apart from a group of volunteers, Gandhi also requested ‘start-up funds to pay for telegrams, literature, law books, travel, and legal fees for local lawyers.’26 Telegrams were undoubtedly a convenient instrument of communication, but they were not necessarily cheap at the end of the nineteenth century, even when sent inland.27 During his trip to India in 1896, which he undertook with the aim of



promoting his South African work, the ‘travelling activist’ spent almost a sixth of his overall expenses on telegrams and telegraph boys.28 Most of the amounts were in the range of Rs. 1–2 per telegram sent to collaborators like Tilak, but he also shelled an impressive eighteen Rs. 12 annas for inland messages to the Madras Standard, followed by an additional four Rs. 14 annas a few days later.29 Equally impressive were the sums he used for telegraphic communication with Durban (amounting to almost Rs. 100) and Sir W. W. Hunter (about Rs. 113). The timeliness of delivery made telegraphic communication particularly important in situations of crisis, but the private nature of such dispatches could also become a drawback to their effectiveness as an instrument of protest against the abuses perpetrated by colonial powers, whether in South Africa or in India. Much like letters before them, telegrams were unlikely to be effective at breaking the wall of secrecy and censorship that often surrounded the affairs of the colonial state as long as they remained exchanges between the sender and the receiver.30 It is here that the intermediality of telegrams, understood as the ‘interconnectedness of [different] media of communication,’ became particularly important, as their content moved between letters, petitions, newspapers, periodicals and, equally significant, oral communication such as face-to-­ face discussions with political figures and potential signatories of petitions.31 This is evident, for example, from the fate of a telegram sent by Gandhi to the Viceroy of India on 30 November 1896, to inform him about the receipt of a South African wire announcing that the ‘Transvaal Government is enforcing Indians to locations.’ In his dispatch, Gandhi did not only communicate the information, but also registered his protest against what he considered to be a ‘breach of international courtesy’ and asked for redress in the form of ‘immediate action.’ The telegram was also published, with minor changes, in the Times of India on 30 November 1896 and, a day later, in The Bengalee, thus escaping the secretive corridors of colonial power and entering a circuit of publicity that was expected to maximize its reach and impact.32 The hitherto neglected ‘telegraphic petitions’ represent another example that underscores the importance of telegrams as instruments of timely communication whose effectiveness can only be gauged when judged as part of an interconnected media environment. In thinking about what made such forms of communication effective, I draw on Mathur’s discussion of arzees against big cats in contemporary India, in which she describes as ‘efficacious’ those petitions whose ‘appeals were given an audience,’



even if their demands were not necessarily met.33 The telegraphic petitions discussed below were usually acted upon in some manner or another by colonial authorities and were used in conjunction with longer, more traditional petitioning formats, but their broader appeals remained, ultimately, unmet. For example, after the Franchise Law Amendment Bill in Natal passed a second reading and the prospect of being read a final time loomed large at the beginning of July 1894, Gandhi carefully drafted what became his first South African petition to protest the proposed legislation. The sending of this document to the Legislative Assembly was only the first step in a chain of events which demonstrate that petitioning can seldom be reduced to the mere act of submitting a written document.34 In this case, the petition was followed shortly by telegrams requesting confirmation of receipt as well as support from individuals like Sir Harry Escombe, the Attorney-General, lawyer Fredric Tatham and Charles T. Hitchins, all of whom Gandhi later met in person. Copies of the document reached the editors of the Natal Mercury and Natal Advertiser. Gandhi also proceeded to collect signatures—the diary entry for 1 July 1894 records that he spent a good forty-five minutes speaking to about hundred Indians in Durban and that his ‘speech seemed to have made a favourable impression.’35 Much to his dismay, the young lawyer learned that his petition was dismissed as having arrived ‘too late’ and that the Bill was due to be read a third time a mere three days after its second reading. Pressed for time, he used the telegraph to flash out another petition, requesting the Assembly to delay the third reading. As he explained to Lord Ripon on 14 July 1894, in yet another plea that followed similar documents sent to the Legislative Assembly and the Governor of Natal, When Your Lordship’s Petitioners became aware that two days after the second reading, the Bill had passed the committee stage, and a day after, it would pass the third reading it was impossible to present a petition to the Hon. the Legislative Assembly unless the third reading was postponed. Your Lordship’s Petitioners, therefore, sent a telegraphic petition to the Honourable the Legislative Assembly, requesting that a postponement should be granted. The postponement was very graciously granted for one day.36

Gandhi lost this particular battle, but not without gaining experience and publicity. This was not the last time he put the telegraph to such uses: on 22 October 1895, we find him sending another telegraphic petition to



Chamberlain, this time protesting the distinction made between white and coloured British subjects and alerting him that a memorial was on its way.37 As these examples suggest, the telegraph became particularly important as a time-gaining device in the fight against the bureaucratic machinery of the colonial state. The textual and the oral were interwoven in these campaigns of persuasion, as copies of the petitions were circulated to the press, politicians approached for support and, in a scenario reminiscent of today’s online petitioning culture, signatures were collected. However, if telegraphy and the press provided opportunities for Gandhi and his collaborators to publicize their messages, the same was true of his opponents. This brings us to the last episode in our discussion, where we examine the issue of accuracy in telegraphic communications and how Gandhi negotiated the gaps between what technology was and what he thought it ought to be.38

The Green Pamphlet—The Politics of Telegraphy In January 1897, Gandhi and his fellow passengers were finally allowed to leave the steamer Courland which had brought them from Bombay to Durban almost a month earlier. As he set foot ashore and started walking towards the house of his friend Parsi Rustomji, Gandhi was surrounded by a group of Europeans who, according to his own account, ‘pelted’ him with eggs, stones and brickbats until he fainted. He was eventually saved from the crowd by a Mrs. Alexander, wife of the Superintendent of Police at Durban, and managed to reach his friend’s house escorted by police officers.39 Responsible for this nearly fatal incident was, apparently, a telegram. Prior to his trip, Gandhi had written a pamphlet in which he decried the harsh living conditions and the injustices perpetrated against Indians in South Africa. Published on 14 August 1896 and known as the Green Pamphlet, this ‘Appeal to the Indian public’ was printed in 10,000 copies and sent to newspapers and leaders of political parties throughout India.40 A month after the publication of the Pamphlet, Reuters’s agent in India cabled to London a summary of its content and its reception by two prominent Anglo-Indian newspapers, the Times of India and the Pioneer.41 Following well-established hierarchies of imperial telegraphic communication, a summary was then cabled from London to Natal for publication in the pages of local newspapers. The dispatch was couched in the language of racial emotions:



A Pamphlet published in India declares that the Indians in Natal are robbed and assaulted and treated like beasts, and are unable to obtain redress. The Times of India advocates an inquiry into these allegations.42

The publication of this telegram caused considerable resentment among the white residents in Natal and was, according to Gandhi, the main reason why he and his fellow passengers were prevented from disembarking for almost a month.43 Interesting, however, is the fact that Gandhi did not accuse Reuters directly of having misrepresented his opinions in their telegraphic summary. In an interview with the Natal Adviser on the day of the attack, he only suggested that the telegram was mistakenly taken to be an ‘accurate summary’ of his pamphlet.44 The same attitude resurfaced almost three decades later when he recalled the incident in an interview with the Bombay Chronicle. Instead of pointing the finger at the people who concocted the telegram, Gandhi chose to engage in a general discussion about the limitations of telegraphy as a medium of communication: All cable messages, being a summary of speeches or writings, have to be taken with the greatest caution … I was myself lynched in Durban because Reuter had cabled in 1896 a summary in a few sentences of [a] pamphlet I wrote in India describing the position of Indians in Natal. It was not a conscious misrepresentation; nevertheless, the intense condensation of a 30-page octavo-sized pamphlet gave a very inaccurate account of what I had written.45

Even in his Autobiography, Gandhi reiterated the idea that a direct causal relation existed between the format of the telegram and its failure to report events accurately: ‘This [Reuter] cable was not longer than three lines in print. It was a miniature, but exaggerated, edition of the picture I had drawn of the treatment accorded to the Indians in Natal, and it was not in my words.’46 The Durban incident is instructive and raises questions not only about Reuters’s position as a ‘news agency of the British Empire,’ which I have discussed elsewhere, but also about technologies as seemingly neutral tools or means to an end.47 Although Gandhi’s public interpretation of the event emphasized the characteristics of the medium rather than the manner in which it had been employed, thus seemingly divorcing technology from the political contexts of its use, this was merely a rhetorical device. To begin with, his long-lasting concern with the accuracy of telegraphic



communications, already visible during the Durban incident, indicates that for him the human element was, in fact, inseparable from technology use. In this respect, the shortcomings of technology were, essentially, shortcomings of the people—including himself—who had created it and were using it. For example, in a letter to Gokhale from 1911, Gandhi explained in painstaking detail how the incorrect deciphering of a code address had let him to assume that his name was being proposed for the presidentship of the Indian National Congress. He dissected the available evidence in the form of letters and cablegrams to distil fact from fiction, drawing on skills he had honed not only as a budding journalist, but also from his practice of law.48 Gandhi, then, was no naïve user of telegraphy. This recognition is all the more important since the telegraph, much like the Internet today, was a technology that dematerialized communication, thus helping to obscure the human factor involved in its making and working.49 In an age of acceleration and proliferating telegraphic untruths, Gandhi often used the telegraph as an instrument to verify ‘truth.’ He recognized its potential as a tool for publicity, especially when used in conjunction with other means of communication. Like in the case of Lala Lajpat Rai’s use of English, for Gandhi the use of telegraphy was an ‘anomalous,’ yet ‘inevitable,’ situation.50 This was all the more so since he was aware of the prestige associated with telegraphy and the racial and political hierarchies that beset communication in the British Empire: very few Europeans would read what I wrote in Natal, and still fewer would care for it. The case, however, was obviously different with my speeches and writings in India. Thousands of Europeans would read Reuter’s summaries. Moreover, a subject which is considered worthy of being communicated by cablegram becomes invested with an importance it does not intrinsically possess.51

Gandhi urges us to exercise caution, to train our critical eye and thinking skills. Much like today’s fact checkers, he teaches us to read laterally, across related sources of information in the form of letters, telegrams and oral evidence in order to distil the ‘truth.’ His practices of telegraphy are an important reminder that notwithstanding the rushed nature of modern communication, the reading of the messages thus exchanged need not be a superficial or uncritical exercise. Ultimately, the Durban episode underscores the complex nature of news in a colonial environment, as a



contested field in which power relations were constantly played out. It suggests that Reuters was an imperial news agency whose news reports, although inherently biased and subjective, were often accepted as authoritative and ‘objective’ accounts of events—so much so that violence and division were perpetrated on their behalf. Gandhi’s strategy was to counter this state of affairs in both word and practice, by attempting to demonstrate that a different instrumentality of technology was possible. In his hands, the telegraph also became a tool of resistance.

Conclusion: A Critical Practice of Technology? Focusing on the example of the electric telegraph, this chapter has attempted to offer new insight into Gandhi’s engagement with technology as an instrument of political action by shifting attention from his theory of technology to his practices of it. Put differently, I aimed to reformulate the worn-out question of ‘Did Gandhi reject technology or not?’ as a question of ‘Did Gandhi use technology? If so, how and why?’ This shift in perspective was all the more intriguing since, as other scholars have also discussed, in his writings Gandhi often rejected the idea that technology was a neutral means to an end: a ‘rational,’ universal tool that could be transplanted from one context to another and divorced from the social and political milieu of its use. For Gandhi, modern technology was an instrument of imperialist exploitation and dependence. His proposed solution out of this conundrum, as seen in HS and subsequent pronouncements, was one that many instrumentalist, but also substantive, theories of technology came to share. As Andrew Feenberg reminds us in a different context, ‘Total instrumentalization is … a destiny from which there is no escape other than retreat.’52 This perspective was reflected in a letter to Henry Polak Gandhi wrote on 14 October 1909: It is not the British people who are ruling India, but it is modern civilization, through its railways, telegraphs, telephones, and almost every invention which has been claimed to be a triumph of civilization. India’s salvation consists in unlearning what she has learnt during the past fifty years. The railways, telegraphs, hospitals, lawyers, doctors, and such like have all to go, and the so-called upper classes have to learn to live conscientiously and religiously and deliberately the simple peasant life, knowing it to be a life giving true happiness.

Yet, as we have seen at the beginning of this chapter, even in discourse Gandhi recognized that this was a solution for an ideal world in which he



did not live. Machinery could not go; at the very least, all machinery could not go. His response to this reality, as far as telegraphy was concerned, was what I call a critical practice of technology. The expression is inspired by Feenberg’s ‘critical theory of technology’ but, by bringing technology use into the discussion, it attempts to account for slippages between theory and practice and understand how Gandhi negotiated the gap between what technology was and what he thought it ought to be.53 Put differently, while Gandhi often decried the loss of agency that followed human dependence on technology, his own practice of telegraphy seems to demonstrate that this was not a predetermined outcome. In his case, perhaps the first manifestation of agency was the realization that technology was an ambivalent instrument of modernity. As he writes in HS with regard to the railways, the same technology that was hailed by imperialists the world over for bringing people together—not least the colonizers and the colonized—was also responsible for driving them apart.54 This ambivalence was also reflected in his interactions with telegraphy, as demonstrated by his criticism of telegraphy as a medium of communication prompted by the Green Pamphlet incident. However, while criticizing the instrumentality of technology was an important aspect of the Gandhian agenda, the very fact that he continued to use telegraphy for political communication also suggests that this criticism was not, in and by itself, sufficient. In fact, Gandhi’s practice of telegraphy proved to be more consistent throughout his life than his discourse of it. His use of telegraphy was an attempt to imagine a different instrumentality for technology, one in which the telegraph, although a ‘tool of empire’ and mediator of division, also became a tool of resistance, enabling fast and biased communication, but also the verification of ‘truth’ as he understood it and becoming an important tool of publicity in a larger media environment. Perhaps the lesson to learn from Gandhi in this respect is that if we cannot escape technology—if we have to fight poison with poison, as he put it— we might as well make use of it critically.

Notes 1. Perry Anderson, The Indian Ideology (Gurgaon, 2012), p. 17. 2. Pratap Bhanu Mehta, The Burden of Democracy (Gurgaon, 2003), p. 59; Suchitra, “What Moves Masses? Dandi March as Communication Strategy,” Economic and Political Weekly, vol. 30, issue 14, 1995, pp. 743–746. 3. Isabel Hofmeyr, Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading (Cambridge, MA, and London, 2013), p. 4.



4. Ashis Nandy, “From outside the Imperium: Gandhi’s Cultural Critique of the ‘West’,” Alternatives, vol. 7, 1981, pp. 177–178. 5. Shiv Visvanathan, A Carnival for Science: Essays on Science, Technology and Development (Delhi, 1997), p.  218; Ritu Birla, “Might As Well Face It, We’re Addicted to Gandhi,” Public Culture, vol. 23, issue 2, 2011, p. 478; Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (London, 1993), pp. 86–87. 6. I borrow this expression from Arthur M. Melzer, “The Problem with the ‘Problem of Technology’,” in Arthur M.  Melzer, Jerry Weinberger, and M. Richard Zinman (eds.), Technology in the Western Political Tradition, Ithaca and London, 1993, p. 292. 7. Keith Breckenridge, “Gandhi’s Progressive Disillusionment: Thumbs, Fingers, and the Rejection of Scientific Modernism in Hind Swaraj,” Public Culture, vol. 23, issue 2, 2011, p. 334. 8. Gandhi, “Speech at YMCA,” 18 May 1908, in The Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Ahmedabad, 1969–1994, vol. 8, p. 244. https://www. gandhiheritageportal.org/the-collected-works-of-mahatma-gandhi 9. Gandhi, “Discussion with G. Ramachandran,” 21 & 22 October 1924, in CW, vol. 25, pp. 250–251. 10. Gandhi, “Speech at Industries Ministers’ Conference,” 31 July 1946, in CW, vol. 85, p. 95. 11. The telephone is another technology of communication awaiting investigation in this regard. 12. Anderson, The Indian Ideology, pp.  29–30; Dwaipayan Banerjee, “The Mahatma in the Machine,” Contemporary South Asia, vol. 25, issue 4, 2017, p. 436. 13. M. K. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj or Indian Home Rule (Madras, 1921), p. 99. 14. Simone M. Müller, Wiring the World: The Social and Cultural Creation of Global Telegraph Networks (New York, 2016); Amelia Bonea, The News of Empire: Telegraphy, Journalism, and the Politics of Reporting in Colonial India, c.1830–1900 (New Delhi, 2016), pp. 76–79. 15. Yongming Zhou, Historicizing Online Politics: Telegraphy, the Internet and Political Participation in China (Stanford, 2006). 16. Elena Vezzadini, “Nationalism by Telegrams: Political Writings and Anti-­ Colonial Resistance in Sudan, 1920–1924,” The International Journal of African Historical Studies, vol. 46, issue 1, 2013, p. 39. 17. David P. Nickles, Under the Wire: How the Telegraph Changed Diplomacy (Cambridge, MA, and London, 2003), pp. 188–189. 18. Carol Summers, “Slander, Buzz and Spin: Telegrams, Politics and Global Communications in the Uganda Protectorate, 1945–1955,” Journal of Colonialism and Colonial History, vol. 16, issue 3, 2015, pp. 1–13.



19. Robin Jeffrey, “The Mahatma Didn’t Like the Movies and Why It Matters: Indian Broadcasting Policy, 1920s–1990s,” Global Media and Communication, vol. 2, issue 2, 2006, p. 206. 20. “‘Voice of India’ Demands End of Opium Traffic,” Chicago Daily Tribune, 21 November 1924. 21. Gandhi, “No and Yes,” Young India, 17 March 1927, in CW, vol. 33, p. 164. 22. Biswajit Das, “Introduction,” in Biswajit Das (ed.), Gandhian Thought and Communication: Rethinking the Mahatma in the Media Age, New Delhi, 2019, p. 6. 23. For example, Gandhi, “Letter to E. F. C. Lane,” 14 May 1908, in CW, vol. 8, p. 232. 24. Gandhi, “Letter to Mahadev Desai,” 9 December 1928, in CW, vol. 38, p.  188; Gandhi, “Letter to Mirabehn,” 20 January 1929, in CW, vol. 32, p. 372. 25. As demonstrated by the string of anti-Indian legislation that followed the Franchise Law Amendment Bill and included the Quarantine Act, the Uncovenanted Indians Act, the Immigration Restriction Act and the Dealers’ Licences Act. 26. Charles R.  DiSalvo, M. K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law: The Man before the Mahatma (Berkeley, 2013), p. 48. 27. Bonea, The News of Empire, pp. 73–79. 28. Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi Before India (London, 2013), p. 102. 29. Gandhi, “Statement of Expenses,” in CW, vol. 2, pp. 104–115. 30. Cf. Vezzadini, “Nationalism by Telegram.” 31. K. B. Jensen, “Intermediality,” in K. B. Jensen and R. T. Craig (eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Communication Theory and Philosophy, vol. 1, Chichester, 2016, pp. 972–983. 32. Gandhi, “Telegram to the Viceroy,” 30 November 1896, in CW, vol. 2, p. 116. 33. Nayanika Mathur, “A Petition to Kill: Efficacious Arzees against Big Cats in India,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 53, issue 1, 2019, p. 279. 34. Mathur, “A Petition to Kill.” 35. Gandhi, “Diary (1894),” 1 July 1894, in CW, suppl. vol. 1, p. 3. 36. Gandhi, “Petition to Lord Ripon,” 14 July 1894, in CW, vol. 1, p. 148. 37. Gandhi, “Memorial to J. Chamberlain,” 26 November 1895, in CW, vol. 1, p. 264. 38. Sheila Jasanoff, “Future Perfect: Science, Technology, and the Imaginations of Modernity,” in Sheila Jasanoff and Sang-Hyun Kim (eds.), Dreamscapes of Modernity: Sociotechnical Imaginaries and the Fabrication of Power, Chicago and London, 2015, p. 14.



39. M. K. Gandhi, An Autobiography or the Story of My Experiments with Truth (1927; reprint, Ahmedabad, 1998), pp. 160–161. 40. Gandhi, Autobiography, p. 140. 41. G. N. S. Raghavan, PTI Story: Origin and Growth of the Indian Press and News Agency (Bombay, 1987), p. 35. 42. Gandhi, “Memorial to the Secretary of State for the Colonies,” 15 March 1897, in CW, vol. 2, p. 142. 43. Officials maintained that this was a quarantine measure necessary because northern India was in the grip of a plague epidemic. Gandhi, Autobiography, pp. 157–158. 44. Gandhi, “Interview to the Natal Advertiser,” 13 January 1897, in CW, vol. 2, p. 123. 45. Gandhi, “Interview to the Bombay Chronicle,” 27 March 1924, in CW, vol. 23, pp. 312–313. 46. Gandhi, Autobiography, p. 140. 47. Bonea, The News of Empire, pp. 238–247. 48. Gandhi, “Letter to G.  K. Gokhale,” 30 October 1911, in CW, vol. 11, pp. 176–178; DiSalvo, M. K. Gandhi, Attorney at Law, pp. 45–48. 49. Greg J.  Downey, “Virtual Webs, Physical Technologies and Hidden Workers: The Spaces of Labor in Information Networks,” Technology and Culture, vol. 42, issue 2, 2001, pp. 209–235. 50. Benjamin Zachariah, Playing the Nation Game: The Ambiguities of Nationalism in India (New Delhi, 2011), p. 87. 51. M. K. Gandhi, Satyagraha in South Africa (Madras, 1928), p. 86. 52. Andrew Feenberg, Transforming Technology: A Critical Theory Revisited (Oxford, 2002). 53. Feenberg, Transforming Technology, p. 13. 54. Gandhi, Hind Swaraj, pp. 33–37.


Gandhi’s Evolving Discourse on Leprosy Sanjiv Kakar

Abstract  This chapter examines Gandhi’s engagement with leprosy, which was much influenced by Christian missionaries, from whom he imbibed the modern, scientific understanding of leprosy. By 1935 Gandhi publicly endorsed the medical positions of Dr Ernest Muir and of BELRA.  Gandhian institutions like the Maharogi Seva Mandal and the Kasturba Gandhi Trust offered this treatment to patients. Gandhi’s endorsement of modern medicine for leprosy and the secularization of his discourse, discussed almost exclusively in his own journals, have been completely overlooked by scholars. Many prevailing theories, for instance, that missionaries ‘re-tainted’ leprosy and that Gandhi rejected modern medicine, have been challenged in this chapter. Keywords  Leprosy • Missionaries • BELRA • Modern medicine

S. Kakar (*) College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_3




Introduction This essay examines M.K. Gandhi’s evolving discourse on leprosy and his extremely cautious use of media for advocacy. Gandhi engaged with leprosy through the course of his life, with two distinct narratives. One is more personal, built around interactions with leprosy patients whom he came across from time to time, in both South Africa1 and India. This is fairly consistent, his interactions have the same warmth and attitude of fearlessness to what was widely regarded as a ‘fell’ disease,2 with traces of mysticism and an overall disregard for the dangers of infection. There is another public health discourse which I discuss in this paper, which has been overlooked by scholars, which begins from 1925, when Gandhi began his visits to leprosy institutions in India. This narrative is altogether different, it contains a clear endorsement of modern medicine, it evolves continuously alongside medical developments and it is to be found mostly in Gandhi’s journals. More than from any other source, the full range of Gandhi’s evolving discourse on leprosy, modern medicine and public health can be gauged from his media advocacy in YI and HJ. It may thus be termed a media discourse, with strategic messages on leprosy in the form of articles written by Gandhi or commissioned by him. These reflect the very latest, up-to-­ date medical positions, very much in the nature of health bulletins on leprosy. Well before the print media began to engage health correspondents, Gandhi took on this role.3 Leprosy was a sensitive issue with much public prejudice, both globally and in India, and Gandhi’s media pronouncements were carefully constructed and cautious. Those aspects that did not fit in with the perspective of modern medicine were excluded. This public health discourse evolved over two decades with two broad phases. The first continued until 1934, during which time Gandhi was visiting missionary-maintained leprosy institutions and finding his way. Modern medicine had begun to offer a ray of hope for leprosy patients, especially those in the early stages of the disease and Gandhi’s responses were influenced by the nature of the missionary institutions where he first encountered it. The missionaries had a complex relationship with modern medicine, offering a humane and caring environment, very different from Gandhi’s harsh condemnations of medical institutions in HS. At the same time Christian missionaries persisted in holding onto biblical notions of sin long associated with leprosy, and held Christian teaching to be the major priority, which in turn prompted a very vocal Gandhian discourse



on religious conversions. In the second phase Gandhi came into contact with the modern medicine for leprosy in a much more secular form, as advocated by the Indian Auxiliary of the British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA). This semi-official body was founded in 1927, a collaborative effort between the colonial state, medical missionaries and a great many Indian doctors and researchers in key posts, and its position was significantly different from the more harsh and coercive measures taken internationally against leprosy patients.4 The impact of BELRA was considerable. In 1920 the Christian missionary organizations were the major player in the field of leprosy care, with 4700 patients in residential care in asylums maintained or aided by them, from a total of 8850 patients in leprosy asylums.5 By 1940, BELRA was very much at the helm: of the 95 residential institutions accommodating 13,000 leprosy patients, about 25% were mission run, the rest by the government or civic bodies.6 These figures are indicative of the progressively greater role of non-­ missionary institutions. However the major thrust of the BELRA intervention was not on providing residential accommodation to patients. Their position was that all forms of leprosy were not contagious, that the disease was amenable to treatment in the early stages, and they initiated the process of entering into villages, making alliances with local bodies and offering treatment. Theirs was a humane, non-coercive policy on leprosy with a great emphasis on preventive aspects, including diet and improved sanitation.7 Much of this was close to Gandhi’s heart and he came to adopt more or less wholesale the BELRA position. Gandhi’s discourse developed further when in December 1944 he visited the Maharogi Seva Mandal, the first leprosy home and hospital run on Gandhian principles. The following year leprosy was included in the Constructive Programme and in 1946 in the activities of the Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (KGT). In the last years of his life Gandhi continued with advocacy on behalf of the leprosy affected, all of which was duly reported in his journals. This discussion challenges many well-established notions on Gandhi, especially the view that throughout his life he retained an antipathy towards modern medicine, which following David Arnold is read as part and parcel of his rejection of both modern industrial civilization and colonialism.8 Studies on Gandhi and public health have continued to uncritically echo this view, reflecting what Faisal Devji has termed ‘a convention’ amongst Gandhian scholars ‘to spend some time tracing his intellectual and political antecedents And these have themselves become so conventional as to be rattled off for the most part without further analysis.’9 More



recently Dilip Menon has called for renewed attention to ‘the genealogy’ of Gandhi’s argumentsand to ‘the diverse and now-forgotten fields of discourse that his positions were located in.’10 These comments are especially relevant to studies on Gandhi and health, where there is no reference at all to the bacteriological revolution or what modern medicine meant in the late nineteenth century. As a result there has been no reconsideration of conventional notions and discussions on Gandhi’s public health policy are confined to hygiene and sanitation.11 A major study by Joseph S.  Alter, Gandhi’s Body: Sex, Diet and the Politics of Nationalism, does extend the scope of Gandhi’s public health policy by viewing this as an integral part of a larger political agenda, where ahimsa, fasting, vegetarianism, nature cure and sexual abstention are all parts of ‘a discrete, modern, scientific sociobiology.’12 However Alter too remains with the idea that ‘Gandhi was dogmatically critical of allopathic medicine and regarded biomedicine as dangerous.’13 Alter neglects to factor in Gandhi’s public health discourse on leprosy as well as Gandhian institutions such as the KGT, where alongside leprosy, modern medicine played a prominent role in midwifery and nursing.14 Another stumbling block is the scholarly discourse on HS, where major studies, including those of Partha Chatterji and Anthony Parell have neglected to provide any historical context to Gandhi’s critique of modern medicine and remain with conventional ideas on Gandhi and modern medicine.15 Recent influential studies such as the edited volume of Ritu Birla and Faisal Devji, Itineraries of Self-Rule: Essays on the Centenary of Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj, hold out the promise to ‘unsettle some tired views of Gandhi’s ideas about life, habit, violence, and virtue,’16 but we have a repetition here of HS as ‘a condemnation of modern “civilization” in all its violent technological proliferation.’17 Turning to leprosy, only Sandhya Shetty discusses this in relation to Gandhi, but her approach remains limited to Gandhi’s interactions with some few patients in South Africa and then a jump to Parshure Shastri. Shetty repeats prevailing notions about Gandhi’s ‘robust and radical’ critique of modern medicine, and in her study leprosy patients, outside of a historical context, are ‘shadowy subaltern objects of Gandhi’s nursing, who arrive unexpectedly and briefly.’18 Her discussion is without reference to the medical understanding of leprosy in South Africa, with harsh legislations in place, or the wholly different situation in India in the 1920s, when Gandhi interacted with Parshure Shastri, freedom fighter and leprosy patient. In this respect Shetty follows the approach of biographers, of



which Rajmohan Gandhi is a representative example.19 Ramchandra Guha’s two-volume study is entirely silent on leprosy.20 The reappraisal of Gandhi which post-modern scholarship calls for has not yet extended to his complex relationship with leprosy and modern medicine.

The Impact of Bacteriology During Gandhi’s childhood, colonial medicine regarded leprosy as a hereditary condition, with some speculation on other modes of transmission, a view reiterated by Sir Henry Vandyke Carter of the Indian Medical Service (IMS). He was invited in 1876 by the Kathiawar princes to investigate on leprosy in their territories.21 Gandhi’s references to childhood memories of Ladha Maharaj, a spiritual teacher who had leprosy, contain no suggestion of contagion.22 It was in 1873 that Armauer Hansen discovered the leprosy bacillus and fears of contagion rapidly increased. Hansen’s discovery took place in the context of wider developments within modern medicine in the second half of the nineteenth century which Michael Warboys has discussed, the process whereby earlier environmentalist theories were replaced with a bacteriological understanding of disease causation.23 In the case of leprosy fears of contagion reached a peak in Britain in 1889 following the death of Father Damien de Veuster, a Belgian priest who had elected to serve leprosy patients in Molokai. This was during Gandhi’s residence in London as a student (1888–1891). There was a huge public furore and fears of an epidemic led to the appointment of a Leprosy Commission for India (1889), with much media coverage including in The Times, read by Gandhi.24 It is clear that Gandhi’s exposure to bacteriology during his residence in London had a formative impact, since he explicitly related contagious leprosy with the example of Father Damien. In July 1906 Gandhi wrote in Unity and Minister under the title ‘Another Father Damien’: ‘A missionary has gone home to England from an Indian leper settlement to die of the terrible scourge contracted while carrying out his noble work in this country. Following the great example set by Father Damien … It was only after being medically examined by Sir Patrick Manson, the expert of tropical diseases, that the horrible truth was known as to his malady. Leprosy, it was pronounced to be, and for 8 months the Missionary is under treatment at the London School of Tropical Medicine.’25



Here leprosy is represented by Gandhi in terms of the bacteriological understanding of causation, transmission and diagnosis, and the reference to Sir Patrick Manson only underlines this. Manson was founder of the London School of Tropical Medicine, and author of Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates,26 which enjoyed a canonical status in India.

Missionary Medicine One of Gandhi’s first media statements on leprosy in India was in IO, 11 April 1908, whilst in South Africa, in an article titled ‘Lepers’ Blessings.’ He refers here to an ML publication27: ‘There is a place called Chandkhuri in India. There, Christian missionaries have established a lepers’ hospital to which they admit any Indian leper … It may well be that the British preside over an empire and prosper because of the blessings of these lepers while we live in misery because of their curses.’28 Gandhi’s introduction to the medical treatment for leprosy was mediated by the Christian missionaries and their institutions. The Mission to Lepers was founded by Wellesley Bailey in 1874, and it soon became the major care provider for leprosy in India. The missionary asylums for leprosy were not primarily medical institutions, though some did offer medical facilities.29 It is clear from the many missionary publications that the leprosy affected was not seen primarily as a patient but as a sinner in need of Christian teachings.30 This representation was so widespread that the missionaries have been charged with ‘retainting’ leprosy at a time when modern medicine was establishing a bacteriological understanding.31 Some of the issues raised by Gandhi here, on the proselytizing activity of the missionaries, or the need for Indians to take responsibility, would be reiterated frequently.32 What Gandhi does at this time is to deftly invert the missionary representation of the leprosy patient as a sinner to one who gives ‘blessings.’ Gandhi’s effort to de-stigmatize leprosy begins here, though elements of mysticism, evident in the title ‘Lepers’ Blessings,’ would be sanitized from his public health discourse subsequently. The medicine for leprosy was subject to many variables. The Leprosy Commission for South Africa (1895) had ruled that leprosy was contagious and patients were to be interned on Robben Island,33 while the Leprosy Commission for India (1892) found that ‘the danger of leprosy being diffused and spread by contagion is exceedingly small.’34 From 1920 an entirely new generation of medical knowledge about leprosy was



introduced into India by Sir Leonard Rogers of the IMS, whose researches at Calcutta produced a new injectable treatment for leprosy, derived from the active agents of Chaulmoogra oil, an Ayurvedic medicine for leprosy. In an article in The Statesman, 11 October 1923, Rogers pointed out ‘the harm which has been done to progress in dealing with this dread disease by the ignorant prejudice of medical as well as laymen,’35 which provides a context within which to view Gandhi’s own interventions. Gandhi began his round of visits to leprosy asylums in India from 1925 with a hurried visit to the Cuttack Leprosy Asylum on 20 August 1925, but it was at the Purulia Leper Home that he was to able view the impact of this new medicine for leprosy. Writing in YI, 24 September 1925, in what may be termed his first health bulletin on leprosy, Gandhi appreciates the ‘loving care of the superintendents’ and the great benefits of the new medicine that he was to view as an ally: ‘I was told at Purulia that leprosy was brought under subjection by means of oil injections, especially in the initial stages. The Superintendent also told me that the cases that looked horrible-burnt up skin or burnt toes and fingers-were not contagious at all. In such cases the disease had done its work. There was no contagion and no cure. The contagious cases were those which neither the public nor the patient recognised as such. These are the cases that admit of complete cure through injections … The general reason assigned was unchaste living.’36

There are some inaccuracies in this article, such as ‘leprosy is on the increase’37 and the reference to ‘unchaste living,’38 all of which are indicative of Gandhi’s dependence on lay missionaries for information.39 Gandhi visited the Naini Leper Asylum in Allahabad on 16 November 1929, where his friend Sam Higgenbottom served as the Honorary Superintendent. The recent treatment data was very encouraging, with 7 adults and 18 children having been discharged as cured during 1928.40 Gandhi wrote in the Visitors’ Book: ‘I envied Mrs. Higgenbottom the love of the children to her as to a mother,’41 a reference to the Home for Untainted Children on the asylum premises. At the Naini Leper Asylum Gandhi encountered a contentious issue, the segregating of male and female patients, a policy endorsed by both the ML and The Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church in the USA, which the Higgenbottoms chose to defy.42 Ethleen Cody Higgenbottom brought this to Gandhi’s attention during this visit, with reference to the separate



accommodation for married couples, and Gandhi reverted to this some years later in HJ, 14 September 1935, in an article ‘Procreation among Lepers.’ Here Gandhi referred to his discussion with Mrs. Higgenbottom and invited Miller’s opinions on this policy, which Gandhi then published.43 The issue of sexual rights of the leprosy affected had never come up in the public domain, nor was it broached by the Indian elite groups, and several articles in The Pioneer on the Naini Asylum44 were completely silent on this. Gandhi’s HJ article in 1935 thus remains the lone voice calling for discussion on the sexual and reproductive rights of the leprosy affected, amid repeated calls for coercive actions, including threats of sterilization, both in India and internationally.

The Indian Auxiliary of BELRA On 5 May 1934 Gandhi met with Dr Isaac Santra at the Sambalpur Leper Asylum in Orissa. This meeting with India’s first leprosy specialist of eminence, who played a leading role in BELRA, was surely a turning point in Gandhi’s discourse on leprosy. Following this meeting we get Gandhi’s most explicit endorsements of the position of BELRA. Dr Umapati Gupta is referred to as the ‘leprosy expert’ in HJ, 18 May 1934, in an article which contains Dr Santra’s survey undertaken in Puri.45 Santra’s expertise was in the area of public health and preventive measures and the leprosy survey conducted across India, which he headed, placed the figures of leprosy affected as at least a million persons. By this time BELRA placed greater emphasis on preventive measures and the importance of hygiene and diet. Within five years of operations BELRA had made enormous progress, entering into villages, establishing treatment centres, training over 5000 doctors in the latest treatments for leprosy and educating people about the disease.46 All of this was dear to Gandhi’s heart. From 1934, Gandhi’s media positions became closely allied to the BELRA position, and Gandhi invited medical experts and activists to write in HJ, a recognition of the authoritative voice of his own journals. Gandhi himself wrote an article titled ‘Leprosy and its Prevention’ in HJ, 7 September 1935, extending his endorsement to a recent and widely read BELRA booklet of Dr Ernest Muir, Leprosy: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention.47 Gandhi wrote, ‘I quote freely from the chapter on Prevention,’ and he provided a detailed account of Muir’s views on the exaggerated panic over contagion, the need to protect children, and for patients to maintain certain



precautions.48 Gandhi’s media bulletins on health, as always, disseminated the most recent medical knowledge. Gandhi also reveals an awareness of the need for missionary institutions to play a major role in the field of public health. Following a correspondence between Gandhi and his friend, A.  Donald Miller, Honorary Secretary to the ML,49 a series of articles by Miller, ‘Letters to a Village Worker,’ addressed to a fictional village activist, appeared in HJ during June and July 1936.50 Miller’s affirmed this work to be the duty of ‘patriots,’51 and wrote from a public health perspective. By 1936, both Gandhi and Miller had adopted public positions which were very close to BELRA.52 By the 1940s the missionary institutions no longer set the agenda. BELRA, with Dr R. G. Cochrane as medical advisor, was very much in the lead role in formulating policy for leprosy.53 With the creation of Gandhian institutions for leprosy Gandhi’s endorsement of modern medicine developed in new directions. The Maharogi Seva Mandal (MSM) was founded in 1936 at Dattapur, Wardha, under the inspired charge of Manohar Dewan. Gandhi refers to him in HJ, 20 October 1940: ‘Though an utter stranger to medicine this worker has by singular devotion mastered the method of treatment of lepers and is now running several clinics for their care … He has now published a handbook in Marathi for the treatment of lepers,’54 a reference to Manohar Dewan’s Marathi textbook on leprosy titled Maharog (1940), a compilation of several BELRA publications.55 When Gandhi included leprosy in the Constructive Programme, he referred to this institution and to Dewan with some pride.56 Another Gandhian institution to commit to leprosy work was the KGT, following Gandhi’s meeting on 8 February 1945 with Dr Cochrane, at the initiative of T.N.  Jagadisan, India’s first leprosy patient turned activist.57 Gandhi shared the leprosy activities of the Trust in ‘Kasturba Leprosy Work,’ in HJ, 14 April 1946, sharing the latest medical perspective: ‘In Madavilagam village 18 definite cases of leprosy have been discovered out of 593 inhabitants. Four of these are infective and fourteen neural. Infection is spread by indiscriminate contact of infective cases with children.’58 The challenge of combating of stigma and educating people about leprosy required the support of eminent medical voices and there is a realization that Gandhi could not do it alone. Thus Sushila Nayar, personal physician to Gandhi, wrote in ‘Ignorant Legislation,’ HJ, 5 May 1946, of a news report in the Hindu of 1 April 1946, referring to a proposal before the Sind Assembly to sterilize male beggars.59 Gandhi followed this up in a letter to Dr Cochrane dated 11 September 1946, asking for ‘a



well-considered medical opinion,’ signed by as many medical men as possible.60 Another article by Gandhi, ‘Leprosy and Contamination,’ HJ, 22 September 1946, was in response to a media report in the Hindu of Madras of 26 August 1946, on the proposal of the Bihar government to construct a separate jail for the leprosy affected in Govindpur, Manbhum.

Gandhi’s Legacy Gandhi’s discourse on leprosy and public health had a great impact during his lifetime and his legacy continued to inspire after his tragic death. The Gandhi Memorial Trust, also known as the Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, formed on 17 February 1949, resolved to take up leprosy work as a major activity. Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, India’s first Minister for Health, acknowledged that the ‘national recognition of Leprosy as an important public health problem was given when Gandhiji … created the necessary enthusiasm among the leaders for the welfare and rehabilitation of people suffering from leprosy.’61 Alongside the public health narrative, Gandhi’s visits to leprosy asylums and interactions with patients continued, revealing a more personal dimension. The Superintendent of the Cuttack Leper Asylum wrote of his visit on 20 December 1927: ‘Although far from well, when last in Cuttack, he paid us a visit and also sent a basket of fruit and bunches of lovely roses … He gave cheery messages which in tone and interest and spirit  were really Christian.’62 Dr Isaac Santra has related how after one such interaction with patients at the Sambalpur Leprosy Clinic, Gandhi declined the offer of disinfectant, which unfortunately has been read out of context as a disavowal of bacteriology.63 Perhaps the most widely shared and enduring image of Gandhi’s commitment to the leprosy patient is the support he offered to Parshure Shastri, freedom fighter and leprosy patient, when Shastri arrived at Sevagram. Gandhi’s uneasiness at the time is recounted by contemporaries64 but these find no mention in his public discourse. Shastri made a brief appearance in HJ, 15 September 1940, in a report of an ashram wedding wherein he officiated; for the very first time in the colonial history of India a leprosy patient was represented in the media without reference to deformity or disability, neither a sinner nor mendicant nor outcaste. This too is part of Gandhi’s legacy. Outside HJ, Gandhi continued to make reference to illness having its origin in the mind, though with great caution not to reinforce stigma. At prayer meetings in October 1947 he clarified that every illness was a consequence of



‘violating nature’s law,’ and leprosy was no different: ‘Leprosy is a skin disease … I believe it is a disease of the body and there is no difference between leprosy and cough.’65 The next day he added, ‘Hatred towards one’s fellow-beings … is worse than leprosy.’66 The secularization of leprosy was a complex process and boundaries were fluid. Scholars have noted that Gandhi frequently held multiple positions and cautioned about the dangers of homogenizing these. Viewed from a historical context, holding multiple positions was very much a characteristic of the times. A dual allegiance can be seen in Dr Cochrane’s conduct of a research study at Saidapet in the Madras Presidency, on the basis of which official policy was formulated. In an internal communication to ML, he refers to a public health objective, ‘to find an economical method of leprosy-control,’ but also to a second objective, ‘to give an opportunity for the indigenous Christian Church in India to demonstrate Christian service … we are anxious not to have to depend on non-­Christian support for the scheme.’67 Gandhi, along with the missionaries, struggled with divided loyalties and HJ provided a space for diverse voices. Primacy was given to effectively taking the medicine to the people, which could include advocacy of quackery. Thus A.V.  Thakkar, an eminent social worker and close associate of Gandhi, wrote in HJ, 23 November 1934, in praise of a missionary group in Kajaria, Sindh: ‘Father Elwin, though a Christian in the truest sense of the term, is not out for proselytization … the latest method of injecting chalmogra oil is being adopted for treatment. Brother Shamrao, though not a doctor, has learnt the treatment and is in charge of the Home.’68 There is little difference in this respect between the positions of Brother Shamrao and of Manohar Dewan, who explained the circumstances which made such a situation inevitable: ‘Being a non-medical man I had some hesitation to take up this work in the beginning. I started clinics, began to conduct an in-patient institution and published books on the subject not because I was better fitted for it but because nobody else was doing it.’69 Amid the diversity there were shared ideals which united Gandhi with Donald Miller, Dr Santra, T.N. Jagadisan, Dr Cochrane, Manohar Dewan and a host of others, who gathered at the first Indian Leprosy Workers’ Conference at the MSM in Wardha from 30 October to 1 November 1947. Donald Miller recounted his experiences of the Conference and noted, ‘How Wellesley Bailey would have rejoiced to look upon that company now gathered under the Chairmanship of Dr. Jivraj N. Mehta, Director-General of Health Services.’70



The Gandhian institutions for leprosy were also hybrid in nature, deriving from BELRA, from Christian missionary institutions and Gandhian ideals. What gave the MSM its unique status as a nationalistic institution was the adoption of Gandhian principles, including spinning for everyone, and Gandhi’s explicit endorsement. Nonetheless it was a product of the times and similar institutions emerged around the same time in response to local conditions. The Naba Kushta Nibas was one such, built in Purulia in 1937, a citizens’ initiative over concerns about the environment at the Purulia Leper Home, where ‘discriminations, and fear of conversion threw a large section of these lepers on the town.’71 The Gandhian vision for leprosy is positioned somewhere between the faltering secularism of missionary medicine, which had perforce to modify the religious agenda, and the more secular medicine of BELRA, shorn of religious metaphors, but not without its own contradictions. Gandhi’s discourse was rooted in a particular phase of colonialism where the state did not wish to commit resources for leprosy control and encouraged voluntary agencies to step in. In such a situation his choices were limited and historically determined. The Gandhian discourse must necessarily include his many associates who built institutions for leprosy, including Vinoba Bhave, A.V. Thakkar, Manohar Dewan and Baba Raghav Das, all of whom showed considerable independent initiative. Gandhi himself acknowledged Vinoba Bhave’s mentorship for Manohar Dewan, and when he visited the MSM on 12 December 1944, he went a step further and declared, ‘I am not the real Mahatma. Manoharjee is the real Mahatma.’72 There is a uniqueness to leprosy in Gandhi’s life, for with no other illness did he have such a long and sustained engagement. Clearly Gandhi’s relationship with modern medicine and public health was more complex than we have allowed for, and his sustained commitment to the modern medicine for leprosy calls for a rethinking of Gandhi’s discourse on health in general. His exposure to bacteriology dates to his student days in London, well before HS, and it appears much more likely that his critique of modern medicine in HS did not constitute an outright rejection of the basic premises of bacteriology. In the case of leprosy Gandhi chose to make of modern medicine an ally because it was beneficial to the leprosy patient, which shows in no small measure his spiritual heroism. Here nature cure failed him. In April 1942 Gandhi mentioned to Donald Miller of his attempts at nature cure treatment with Parshure Shastri: ‘I suggested treatment to him by fasting … It was a very severe fast; and in the end he could keep it up no longer; and as he took to nourishment again,



so the signs of the disease reappeared.’73 But this was not a private confession. Gandhi went further, making public that on matters concerning leprosy he stood with the opinions of Dr Cochrane rather than of a naturopath.74 By 1947 Gandhi’s public position on leprosy was identical with that of modern medicine. His discourse had evolved through the course of his life, and it would be rare to find another instance where a discourse on public health is revealed entirely through media. Looking back at Gandhi’s 1908 article in IO on ‘Lepers Blessings,’ and the great distance he had come, we may perhaps see the ultimate triumph to be the secularization of leprosy.

Notes 1. Several such encounters are discussed in Autobiography (Ahmedabad 1927). 2. These are Gandhi’s own words, Visitors’ Book, 16–18 November 1929, Naini Asylum, Naini, 110/7, TLM. 3. Virginia Berridge makes the point that ‘This media health field is largely a creation of the postwar years. Health correspondents did not exist before the 1950s’. Virginia Berridge and Kelly Loughlin (eds.), Medicine, the Market and the Mass Media: Producing Health in the Twentieth Century (London 2005), pp. 6. 4. Vollset discusses the BELRA approach, Magnus Vollset, ‘Globalizing Leprosy: A Transnational History of Production and Circulation of Medical Knowledge, 1850s–1930s’, PhD thesis, Univ. of Bergen 2013, pp. 310–314. 5. Report of a Conference of Leper Asylum Superintendents and Others on The Leper Problem in India (Cuttack 1920), Appx. IV, pp. 151. 6. Report on Leprosy and Its Control in India (New Delhi 1942), pp. 58–60. 7. The activities of BELRA are well documented in their Annual Reports. 8. David Arnold argues that Gandhi ‘recognized the extraordinary authority Western medicine had acquired by the 1890s, an authority which had to be confronted and contested if India were ever to free itself from its colonial bondage.’ David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India (Berkeley 1993), pp. 286. 9. Faisal Devji, The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence (Harvard 2012), pp. 9. 10. Dilip M. Menon, ‘An Eminent Victorian: Gandhi, Hind Swaraj and the Crisis of Liberal Democracy in the Nineteenth Century’, History of the Present, Vol 7, no. 1, Spring 2017, pp. 33–58, on pp. 33. 11. See Francis Dube, ‘Public Health and Racial Segregation in South Africa: Mahatma (M.K.) Gandhi debates Colonial Authorities on Public Health



Measures, 1896–1904’, Journal of the Historical Society of Nigeria, Vol 21, 2012, pp.  21–40; John Mattausch, ‘Gandhi’s Prescription: Health and Hygiene in the Unfinished Struggle for Swaraj’, South Asia Research, DOI: 10.1177/0262728014533854, Vol 34: 2, pp. 155–169. 12. Joseph S.  Alter, Gandhi’s Body: Sex, Diet and the Politics of Nationalism (Philadelphia 2000), pp. 13. 13. Ibid., pp. 12. 14. Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust, Report of the Trust for 1944 and 1945. 15. Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Tokyo  1986); Anthony J.  Parel (ed.)M.K.Gandhi:  Hind Swaraj and Other Writings (Cambridge 1997). 16. Arjun Appadurai, “Our Gandhi, Our Times”, in Ritu Birla and Faisal Devji (eds.), ‘Itineraries of Self-Rule: Essays on the Centenary of Gandhi′s Hind Swaraj’, Public Culture, Vol 23, no. 2, 2011, pp. 263–264, on pp. 263. 17. ‘Guest Editors Letter’, Birla and Devji, 2011, pp. 267. 18. Sandhya Shetty, ‘The Quack Whom We Know: Illness and Nursing in Gandhi’, in Debjani Ganguly and John Docker (eds.), Rethinking Gandhi and Nonviolent Relationality: Global Perspectives (Hyderabad 2009), pp. 47–83, on pp. 47, 54. For descriptive accounts on Gandhi’s involvement with leprosy, see T.N.  Jagadisan, Mahatma Gandhi Answers the Challenge of Leprosy (Madras 1965); M.S.  Mehendale, Gandhi Looks at Leprosy (Bombay 1971). 19. Rajmohan Gandhi, Gandhi: The Man, His People and Empire (London 2007), pp. 83, 349, 429. 20. Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi Before India (India, 2012); Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World, 1914–1948 (New Delhi 2018). 21. Modern Indian Leprosy: Being the Report of a Tour in Kattiawar (Bombay 1876). In the Indian systems of medicine leprosy could be caused by multiple factors, ‘deranged’ bodily humours, heredity, the product of past karma or contagion: Dr. Dharmendra, ‘Leprosy in Ancient Hindu Medicine’, LI, January 1940, pp. 19–21. 22. ‘It was said of him that he cured himself of his leprosy not by any medicine, but by applying to the affected parts bilva leaves … and by the  regular repetition of Ramanama.’ Autobiography, pp. 82. 23. Michael Warboys, Spreading Germs: Disease Theories and Medical Practice in Britain, 1865–1900 (Cambridge 2000). 24. The Times 13 May 1889, amid tributes to Damien, termed some stages of leprosy as extremely infectious. Newspaper coverage is discussed by Rod Edmond, Leprosy and Empire: A Medical and Cultural History (Cambridge 2006), pp. 92–101.



25. M.K. Gandhi, Unity and Minister, July 1905, quoted by Jagadisan (1965), pp. 2–3. 26. Manson states the cause of leprosy to be ‘a specific bacterium’; Sir Patrick Manson, Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates (London 1898), pp. 383. 27. This may refer to the ‘tinted brochure’ series, Claire Asylum, Chandkhuri, Mission to Lepers. 28. M.K. Gandhi, ‘Leper’s Blessings’, IO, 11 April 1908. 29. Sanjiv Kakar, ‘Leprosy in British India, 1860–1940: Colonial Politics and Missionary Medicine’, Medical History, April 1996, Vol 40, no 2, pp. 215–230. 30. This is typical of a whole body of literature produced by the missionaries: see Wellesley C. Bailey, The Lepers of our Indian Empire (London 1891). 31. See Zachary Gussow, Leprosy, Racism and Public Health: Social Policy in Chronic Disease Control (Boulder 1989). 32. See for instance YI, 26 February 1925; letter to Miller, no. 169, 11 July 1936, CW, pp. 136–137. 33. Leprosy Commission 1895: Final Report of Commissioners, Vol IV (Cape Town 1895). 34. Leprosy in India: Report of the Leprosy Commission in India, 1890–1891 (Calcutta 1892), pp. 272. 35. Sir Leonard Rogers: ‘Leprosy Scurge: Erroneous Ideas about Contagiousness’, The Statesman, 11 October 1923. These discoveries were widely shared with readers at home as well; see ‘Lepers Hope of Cure’, The Daily News, 25 January 1921; The Times, 17 July 1923; ‘Leprosy Cure; Further Advances in Treatment’, The Morning Post, 20 January 1926. 36. M.K. Gandhi, YI, 24 September 1925. 37. Only the 1931 census showed an increase, ‘due largely if not entirely to an increase in the accuracy of the returns.’ Report on Leprosy and Its Control in India, Central Advisory Board of Health (New Delhi 1942), pp. 13. 38. This suggests a confusion with syphilis, which was among ‘the most important diseases from which leprosy has to be distinguished.’ Sir Leonard Rogers and Ernest Muir, Leprosy (Bristol 1925), pp. 229. 39. Seeking advice on a medical issue, the treatment of ‘white leprosy’, Gandhi turned to the Superintendent of the Purulia Leper Home, 10 February 1926, CW, pp. 452–453. 40. Data provided by Dr Daniel A.  Bethaju, Medical Officer, Naini, PHS, RG83-34-1. 41. Typescript of Gandhi’s entry in the Visitors’ Book, 16 November 1929, Naini, 110/7, TLM. 42. Discussed in Kakar 1996, pp. 225.



43. M.K.  Gandhi, ‘Procreation among Lepers’, HJ, 14 September 1935. Miller offered a weak defence, admitting that ‘many questions are involved, medical, social, economic and spiritual.’ Gandhi’s renewed interest in this issue may be related to his meeting with Margaret Sanger, advocate of birth control, who ‘urged him to rethink his ideas on procreation.’ See Kathryn Tidrick, Gandhi: A Political and Spiritual Life (London 2013), pp. 275–276. 44. See The Pioneer: ‘Grateful Lepers: Fine Spirit in the Naini Institution’, 21 October 1927; ‘The Lepers’ Christmas Dinner’, 26 December 1929; ‘Fighting Leprosy’, 28 October 1930. 45. HJ, 18 May 1934. See also Dr. I. Santra, ‘Reports on Leprosy Survey in Khurda District, Puri, Orissa,’ LI, April 1930, pp. 47–51. 46. For a discussion on BELRA’s mode of intervention, see E. Muir, ‘Methods of Campaign against Leprosy in India,’ LI, April 1931, pp. 50–63, and Dr. John Lowe, ‘The Leprosy Clinic and the Control of Leprosy’, LI, April 1933, pp. 67–71. 47. Ernest Muir, Leprosy: Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention, 5th ed. (Delhi and Shimla 1929). 48. M.K. Gandhi, ‘Leprosy and its Prevention’, HJ, 7 September 1935. 49. Donald Miller served many years as Honorary Secretary to the Indian Auxiliary of the Mission to Lepers in India, and from 1943 to 1960 as General Secretary in the home office. 50. Miller’s set of five Letters to a Village Worker appear in HJ, 6 June 1936; 20 June 1936; 27 June 1936; 11 July 1936; 25 July 1936. 51. HJ, 6 June 1936. 52. See Dr. E. Muir, ‘How Leprosy is spread in the Indian village’, LI, no 2, April 1932, Vol IV, pp. 63–66, and ‘Report on visit to Bankura District’, LI, no 3, July 1932, Vol IV, pp. 35–38. 53. Dr R.G. Cochrane was a missionary medical specialist of international stature, associated with both the Mission to Lepers and BELRA. He was a key figure in the sub-committee appointed by the Central Advisory Board of Health of the Government of India in 1940, and as advisor to Govt. of Madras he guided official policy on leprosy. 54. M. K. Gandhi, ‘Civil Disobedience’, HJ, 20 October 1940. 55. M. B. Dewan, Maharog (Wardha 1940). Diwan acknowledged that it was based mainly on Muir’s Leprosy Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention and Lowe’s Lecture Notes on Leprosy. 56. M K Gandhi, Constructive Programme: Its Meaning and Place (Ahmedabad 1945), pp. 25. 57. See T.N.  Jagadisan, Fulfilment through Leprosy (Tamil Nadu 1988), pp. 81, 94–103.



58. M.  K. Gandhi, ‘Kasturba Leprosy Work’, HJ, 14 April 1946. See also T.N.  Jagdisan [sic.], ‘The Leprosy Problem’, HJ, 24 February 1946; T.N. Jagdisan, “Leprosy Day by Day” in HJ, 7 July 1946. 59. In “Ignorant Legislation”, HJ, 5 May 1946, Nayar quotes from Philip H.  Manson-Bahr (ed.), Manson’s Tropical Diseases: A Manual of the Diseases of Warm Climates, 11th ed. (London 1940), pp. 599. Her choice of this text is quite surprising, since leprosy is described here as the product of ‘a low stage of civilization.’ 60. Gandhi letter to Cochrane, 11 September 1946, CW, no. 365, pp. 300. 61. Address of Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, International Leprosy Conference, Lucknow, November 1953 in LI, January 1954, pp. 5. 62. Letter of Rev. J. Guest, Superintendent Cuttack Leper Asylum, 29 February 1928, Archives of TLM, Cuttack 108/4, 1919–1951. 63. Note of Dr. Santra, no. 1991, appended onto a certified copy of Gandhi’s entry in the Visitor’s Book, Sambalpur Leprosy Clinic, dated 5 May 1934, National Gandhi Museum & Library, New Delhi. 64. See Narayan Desai, Bliss was it to be young-with Gandhi: Childhood Reminiscences, trans. Bhal Malji (Bombay 1988), pp. 69–71. 65. Speech at Prayer Meeting, 23 October 1947, CW 89, pp. 393. 66. 24 October 1947, CW 89, pp. 400–401. 67. R.G. Cochrane and Ivy Cochrane, Circular Letter VII, Lady Willingdon Leper Settlement, Chingleput, 16 June 1938, TLM, 108/3. 68. A. V. Thakkar, HJ, 23 November 1934. 69. M.B. Dewan, LI, July 1942, pp. 113. 70. A. Donald Miller, Red Earth and Summer Lilies (London 1949), pp. 32. For a report of the Conference see Sushila Nayar, ‘All India Leprosy Workers Conference’, HJ, 7 December 1947. 71. See Jimut Bahan Sen, ‘Purulia Naba-Kustha-Nibas, Balarampore: A new line of attack on the leprosy problem’, LI, April 1945, no 2, Vol XVII, pp. 43–47, on pp. 44. 72. Gandhi’s entry in the Visitors’ book, MSM, Papers of the MSM, Dattapur, microfilm, NEG-2, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. See also Vinoba Bhave’s tribute to Dewan, ‘A Neglected Service’, HJ, 26 January 1947. 73. Cited by Miller (1949), pp. 40. 74. K.G.  Mashruwalla, ‘Medical Men’s Statement on Leprosy’, HJ, 12 January 1947.


The Global Gandhi of the Muslim Vernacular Press: Mahatma as Monumental Peasant and the Prophetic Rose in the Urdu Pamphlets of an Early Twentieth-Century Delhi Sufi Timothy S. Dobe

Abstract  The pamphlets of journalist, Urdu writer and Sufi leader Hasan Nizami (1873–1955) on Gandhi are strikingly similar to Gandhi’s own publishing and anti-colonial ‘experiments in slow reading’ (Hofmyer). This chapter makes the argument that Nizami’s long-overlooked cosmopolitan vision created an important alternative to nationalist versions of an emergent ‘Mahatma’. Nizami’s experimental press thus offered his Muslim and non-Muslim readership Islamicate frames for Gandhian nonviolence and continues to challenge us to rethink religion, print and the nation.

T. S. Dobe (*) Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA, USA e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_4




Keywords  Cosmopolitanism • Islamicate • Nationalism • Sufism • Urdu Rather than focusing on Gandhi’s own use of print and media forms or textual and visual memory about him, this chapter examines how Gandhi’s contemporary Muslims imagined him within their own national, transnational and religious contexts.1 The Urdu writings of Hasan Nizami (1873–1955), a Delhi-based Chishti Sufi and friend of Gandhi, provide an important example of one such long-neglected voice. As both promoter and critic of Gandhi, Nizami offers a corrective to Gandhi studies’ general disinterest in contemporaries that made, as it were, the Mahatma possible; as a leading Sufi leader and reformer, his example challenges problematic accounts of the Muslim ‘other’ in South Asian histories today; as one of the most prolific, leading Urdu journalists and writers of his time, his works index the unwieldy breadth of the colonial press and its composite cultures. Contrary to understandings of Urdu publishing around 1920 as a communal press foreshadowing Partition, Nizami’s works on Gandhi exemplify the largely overlooked history of interreligious, cultural and political Islamic engagements in India, South and Central Asia, and beyond. His writings thus confirm recent scholarship on the Urdu press and colonial-­ era Muslim cosmopolitanism tracing the expansive dimensions of vernacular print. Dubrow, for example, describes the Urdu press from Bombay and Hyderabad to East Africa as a language-based ‘cosmopolis’ beyond narrow regional, national or religious identities.2 Of course, Sikhs, Hindus, Christians and others wrote and published widely in Urdu, a fact bolstered, for example, in Punjab by British language policy in education and beyond. Alavi similarly examines a particular Muslim cosmopolitanism appearing in the writings of Muslims inspired by the 1857 ‘Mutiny’, diverse figures whose international exile and prolific publication led them to look to the wider Muslim ummah as a site for contesting imperial fault lines.3 Nizami’s publications examined here—one supporting the pan-­ Islamic Gandhi-backed cause of the Khilafat movement and the other imagining a Muslim-Gandhian global future—position him squarely within such worlds of emergent, often resistant, Muslim cosmopolitanism and Urdu publishing. Put simply, it was a writer of the supposedly ‘communal’ Urdu press who was among the very first to anticipate the global



significance of Gandhi’s nonviolence, a point today no longer hagiographical, but critical.4 Nizami’s use of the Urdu press to develop a form of Muslim cosmopolitanism around the figure of Gandhi, however, stands out as distinctive. I argue here that the visual dimensions of his texts in particular resist the teleology of secular modernisation implicit in many scholarly accounts. A visually attuned interpretation of his works reveals that Nizami looks back towards premodern Islamicate and Sufi imaginaries precisely as a way of pointing forward to a nonviolent and religiously plural future free of empire.5 The richness of Nizami’s multi-sensory, multi-religious, trans-­ temporal imagining of Gandhi evokes, in turn, a range of embodied sensibilities and dispositions that enlivened the networks along which Benedict Anderson’s well-known print culture stalwarts, novels and newspapers travelled. The typographical habits of aphoristic ‘slow reading’ explored in Hofmyer’s study of Gandhi’s own Indian Opinion, for example, help recapture a sense of early twentieth-century modes of publishing for the transnational, reflective, ethical reader.6 Seen in relation to this wider context, Nizami’s visually rich and imaginative representation of Gandhi connects the habitus of the period’s particular print cultures with more explicitly religious sensibilities than in Hofmyer’s nod to the ‘semi-­secular’. I proceed by analysing an image of Gandhi amidst a crowd from the cover of Nizami’s Mahatma Gandhi ka Faisla (Mahatma Gandhi’s Decision, 1919) (Fig. 4.1), move on to consider his Gandhinama (1922, The History of Gandhi) about his imagined world tour in 2050 to assess Gandhi’s legacy, and end with the latter text’s image of the Rose, seen in light of Nizami’s religious and prophetic models.7

Between the Giant and the Rose: Two Gandhi Images from Hasan Nizami’s Works The Muslim spiritual leader, author, and journalist Khwaja Hasan Nizami was a close contemporary of Gandhi, born into the Chishti Sufi lineage in 1873. His family were the keepers of the famous shrine in New Delhi, the dargah of Nizam ud din Auwliya (d. 1325). Itself the centre of emergent print media through its journal Munadi (The Crier), the shrine set a fitting stage for Nizami’s life as a writer and scholar of Persian and Urdu, composing as he did over 100 Urdu works, regularly contributing to a wide range of newspapers, and publishing myriad pamphlets and



Fig. 4.1  Cover image, illustration, H. Nizami, Mahatma Gandhi ka Faisla, 1919

periodicals. While his early education under varied Sufi masters was traditional, his career in publishing reflected the broader ways in which colonial Sufis engaged the ‘modulations of modernity’, via education, reform and communication.8 The press, for example, offered a medium transforming the traditional master-disciple relationship once physically centred in the khanqah (hospice), expanding the range of geographical relationships through the new genre of the Sufi periodical, as Beuhler brilliantly showed.9 Aided by the steamship, telegraph and lithography, the newly expansive range of a pir’s relationships brought Nizami to Egypt, Syria, Palestine and the Hijaz in 1911. The links he made there with reformists, activists and Sufi leaders would attract British surveillance for a number of years, a pattern of printing, travel and activism much like that of his friend and future Congress leader Maulana Azad.10 As shown by his appreciation



for Gandhi’s leadership and spirituality, deep study of Hinduism, and his Jewish, Baha’i and German Christian disciples, Nizami’s developing blend of transnational religion and politics maintained a spiritual inclusivity. The diversity of print media during this period is mirrored in the impressive number of genres embraced and invented by Nizami himself. These range from fiction, parody and works in comparative religion to his invention of new forms of autobiography, daily diaries and a chronicle of the 1857 Mutiny compiled from eyewitness interviews. In my view, Nizami’s wide range of work, much like the role of visual images examined here, can help us expand on recent methodological connections between the literary and the journalistic, the periodical and the pamphlet, and, I would add, the image-making press.11 In this context, the figural focus of Nizami’s cover for his Faisla pamphlet is especially relevant. Given Nizami’s close relationships with journalism, we should begin by noting that this specific image of Gandhi is itself closely tied to contemporary newspapers. Gandhi’s figure here is remarkably similar to a much-reprinted photo of Gandhi newly arrived back in India from South Africa in 1915: the details of the image match the latter so well as to be a direct copy.12 Much like the unnaturally large scale of his figure in this drawing, though, Gandhi’s ‘naturally’ Indian—actually Kathiawadi—dress in the photo should not be taken for granted. Dress itself is never ‘natural’ in any simple sense, as Tarlo argues, in photographs as in life.13 Photographs from South Africa in the 1890s of a tie-wearing, up-and-coming lawyer, for example, remind us of Gandhi’s sartorial shape-shifting. The need to appear extra-recognizably Indian was especially important as Gandhi returned after having been in South Africa for over 20 years. Like the many newspapers reprinting Gandhi’s Indian-dress photograph, supporters such as Nizami aided Gandhi, via Urdu text and roughly improvised hand sketches, to spread just the kind of physical, sartorial image he was trying to promote. This photographic echo, however, makes the lack of straightforward naturalism in Nizami’s cover image all the more striking, with Gandhi’s hulking presence overshadowing the crowds and architecture. Gandhi appears here not simply through a common hieratic scale repeated in a number of later twentieth-century images, but almost as a giant.14 Something of Nizami’s own role as a humourist seems to be at play here, an ironic sense of reversing the myriad images of Gandhi’s scrawny body pervasive in the Indian and British press and beyond. This visual trope was established at least as early as Gandhi’s first civil disobedience campaign in



South Africa in 1906. The scrawny body of the ‘Asian’ figure associated with Gandhi’s causes, as well as Gandhi himself, indexes his weakness and freakishness in Boer and British imaginaries in contrast to the massive strength of civilised, imperial bodies.15 In contrast, but also according to a similar scalar logic, here Gandhi’s size embodies his power: he holds the keys to Indians’ release from British imprisonment. As mentioned, the historical context of the pamphlet is the first mass, all-India non-cooperation campaign of 1920—and Gandhi’s crucial support for the Khilafat movement. This was, first, an Indian Muslim, and soon an all-India, Congress-backed response to Britain’s World War I defeat of the Ottoman Empire. At issue was the British abolishment of the office of the Caliph in Istanbul, the symbolic centre of Islamic authority. While the Ottoman caliph never had had this kind of global attention before, an age of growing pan-Islamic and nationalist networks activated Muslims protest well beyond Turkey.16 Indian Muslim leaders such as Shaukat Ali and Abul Kalam Azad worked with Gandhi towards solidarity of the nationalist cause with the specific transnational, religious concerns of Indian Muslims. As Devji has argued, the Khilafat movement appealed to Gandhi and Muslim leaders precisely for reasons of scale: more than any domestic injustice the Khilafat was an empire-sized issue, which also helped reveal not so much a pro-Islamic stance, but the struggle against empire as itself religious in character.17 More locally, much of Nizami’s Urdu text urges the Nizam of Hyderabad, one of the most important Muslim rulers of a Princely State, to join the movement, which, however, he did not. Although many Indians remained enclosed in the Indian Princely states as shown in this image, scholars have recently explored the subtler ways publications such as Nizami’s may have moved court officials to foster dissent in the local Urdu press, illuminating the ‘fragmented’, rather than absolute or unquestioned, sovereignty of the Raj itself.18 In addition to the ironic gestures and propagandistic functions of this image, Nizami’s exaggerated hieratic vision foreshadows his own next piece of writing on Gandhi, Gandhinama, discussed below and in which Gandhi is imagined as a figure of historic and global significance. Seen in relation to the Mughal court painting Nizami was very familiar with, Gandhi’s imposing figure can be said to echo the hieratic visual scale accorded to shahs (emperors) in Persianate contexts. The greatness of an emperor, of course, was routinely described in terms of global and cosmic frames, a model of ‘charismatic sovereignty’ long tied tightly to saintly Sufi figures.19 Admittedly, such courtly and devotional sensibilities and their



archaic Persianate and Sufi contexts may seem far removed from what we might anachronistically take to be the cold, hard world of news, fact and opinion of the emerging, modern press. Yet, as Amin showed, the vernacular, Indian press at just this time was a key site for the making of a supernatural, holy man ‘mahatma’ image for Gandhi, an argument in many ways supported by this examination of a more formally Muslim, Urdu-language context.20 More broadly, the world of reformist organising and voluntary associations, of which Nizami was a part, used the vernacular press for popularising the biographies of Carlylean ‘great men’, especially in Punjab and UP, often reconfiguring the relationship of myth and history within new religious forms, developing what van der Linden terms a broader ‘moral language’.21 The mythic and moral features of Nizami’s work, more prominent still in his Gandhinama than in this Faisla cover and text, are undeniably marked by the premodern Mughal and Sufi precedents to be explored below. At the same time, interpreted within the broader context of colonial print culture, Nizami’s publications should not be seen as uniquely ‘Muslim’ but as quite at home in the alternative print world of the vernacular and what Hofmyer terms the ‘colonial-born press’.22 As she shows in her study of Gandhi’s own Indian Opinion, first, resistance to imperial rule could work at vernacular presses by challenging not only imperial policy, but the imperial reading habits of newspapers and their sense of time, in contrast to the world of the periodical and the pamphlet. Thus, in order to combat the ‘fast’ reading encouraged by imperial news culture, Gandhi regularly juxtaposed ‘news and ethical extract’ throughout Indian Opinion, with a range of short quotes from the likes of Thoreau, Ruskin and Balzac to encourage the reader to resist the ‘fetish for literacy and mundane knowledge’.23 The central role given to the creative image of Gandhi by Nizami in the Faisla and especially the interspersed images in the Gandhinama interrupt, as it were, the textual reading surface in parallel ways. Second, Gandhi’s international sources and experimental reimagining of his readership fostered a geographically expansive consciousness, proactively fashioning a sense of Indian unity among the diverse religious, linguistic and caste sub-groupings of his readership—especially, Hindus and Muslims, for example. His was an emergent rather than an assumed unity, paradoxically dependent, argues Hofmyer, on Gandhi’s experience of diaspora. While Indian presses are not ‘colonial-born’ in Hofmyer’s precise, diasporic sense, Nizami’s promotion of Gandhi’s Khilafat decision also works to internationalise his readers and point towards an elusive



Indian national unity from an ‘outside India’ (here, Central Asian) vantage. Lastly, for Hofmyer, Gandhi’s print work, marked by slow reading and a transnational, proactive approach to forging national unity, was philosophically grounded in his emphasis on the individual. As articulated in Hind Swaraj, political independence or ‘self-rule’ was grounded in the control and ‘self-rule’ of the individual through the everyday and the concrete specifics of ethical practice and local communities such as the ashrams in which Gandhi’s press was operated. Strikingly, as we will see, these are just the aspects of Gandhi’s legacy that Nizami focuses on: the bodily practices of diet, dress, walking, labour and economy, spinning, poetic recitation and concrete conflict-resolution. In fact, the parallel orientation continues right down, in what seems an uncanny parallel to Hofmyer’s analysis, to Nizami’s emphasis on Gandhi’s ‘sayings’, marking the importance of the aphoristic in ethical reflection.24

Wandering the Future Gandhian-Muslim Cosmopolis in the Gandhinama The contemporary print culture of Nizami’s times helps us interpret his fictional Gandhinama, a text which explores an imagined Gandhian future, as it were, crossing the borders of past and future worlds. As Nizami tells us in the Foreword, this text and its accompanying sections are drawn from the various written pieces on Gandhi he had contributed to newspapers and periodicals, now gathered together in this pamphlet for the first time.25 Thus a modern, journalistic setting informs Nizami’s imaginative text in which he recounts his wandering from New Delhi to Meerut and Afghanistan on to Central Asia, Turkey and Europe; this rambling world tour is set in 2050 to determine Gandhi’s future global influence. The mysterious Quranic prophet Khwaja Khizr, a figure central to Sufi narratives of initiation, eternal life and wandering, grants Nizami these special powers.26 Thus both the framing and the landscape of the work reflect not only Nizami’s characteristic interest in India’s Mughal glory, but also two other non-Arab Islamic empires, the Safavids and Ottomans, and beyond, the broader transnational networks of Sufi orders.27 Religiously, this landscape itself closely maps the geography of what Ahmed characterises as the distinctive Islam of the ‘Balkans-to-­ Bengal complex’, marked by Sufism and its characteristic literary traditions.28



Nizami encodes these Islamicate histories, geographies and sensibilities in the title of his work: A nama is a Persian genre, looking back to Firdausi’s tenth-century Shahnama and the Akbarnama of Mughal court historian Abu‘l Fazl Allami (d. 1602). Such texts chronicle an emperor’s court, conquests and glory as a sovereign, at times claiming the ‘divine source of the Emperor’s royalty’, in exaggerated style.29 Paradoxically, then, Nizami’s vision of the future draws on an archaic sense of transregional connections and literary traditions, South and Central Asian horizons traceable at least as far back as Biruni’s eleventh-century Kitab al Hind. The genre and geographical terrain of Nizami’s text can thus be seen as a visionary but also historically grounded landscape resonant with Gandhi’s use of the archaic Hind in Hind Swaraj.30 As Ramaswamy has argued, the layering of the divine, the nationalist and religious identities upon real and imagined colonial landscapes was a fundamentally visual negotiation, core to emerging literary, linguistic and journalistic sensibilities in this very era.31 Nizami’s literary geography thus not only destabilises the British imperial map, but also offers a cosmopolitan horizon for repositioning Gandhi beyond the categories of Indian nationalism. In many of the sites his text details, he focuses his futurist vision on the possibilities for Gandhi’s legacy in ethical and cultural practice, highlighting subtler dimensions of nonviolence (ahimsa) and self-rule (svaraj). His journey thus begins ‘after the revolution’ (inquilab), the precise character of which must be read out of the tales’ Gandhian details. As he sets out from Delhi, Nizami catalogues new practices, now widespread across borders, that closely mirror Gandhi’s emphasis on bodily discipline as a precondition for any worthwhile political freedom in Hind Swaraj. Travel is on foot since railcars are banished, clothing is self-spun and simple, manual labour is the price of the vegetarian food prevalent, including among once but no longer meat-loving Muslims. Culture too registers Gandhi’s impact: at a poetic gathering (mushaira) in Iran, a Gandhian repertoire of metaphor has transformed the basic tropes of the ghazal: ‘The Beloved’s slender body and sweet speech are like Gandhi’s’.32 In Shiraz, Gandhi’s sayings are quoted conversationally along with the city’s great poets, Sa‘adi and Hafiz. Taken together, these South and Central Asian episodes suggest that Gandhi is remembered most powerfully in everyday practices such as diet, dress and travel, broadly speaking, ethics, and art. Nizami’s text thus anticipates recent scholarship on the bodily, everyday and neighbourly grounding of Gandhi’s political theory, suggesting alternative sites for



rethinking democratic and imperial communities.33 While Nizami’s Urdu press, like that of some of his contemporaries, can be seen as cosmopolitan in contrast to colonial conflations of nation, language and religion, his emphasis on poets and poetic gatherings also suggests a wider, practice-­ based arena to language itself. That is, the literary and linguistic are elements of a wider range of performative practice, again, akin to Hofmyer’s analysis of Gandhi’s ethically reflective, slow-reading approach to print culture. Importantly, this expansive sense of the everyday includes religious practice and community in ways that depart from secular and modern cosmopolitanisms.34 Nizami mentions, for example, that Gandhi’s well-known stance as being a ‘well-wisher’ to all religions has become the widespread norm of a future in which plural religious communities thrive and interreligious conflict is virtually unknown. The Gandhinama goes so far as to imagine one city in which Gandhi himself is remembered as a convert to Islam, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Yet, while religious conversion is typically seen by scholars of the colonial period as a key marker of an anti-­ cosmopolitan communalism and modern religious nationalism, Nizami describes Kabul as full of fruit-eating residents wholly committed to nonviolence, who ‘meditate on Gandhi and stop fighting’ even at the slightest hint of conflict. Nizami’s final adventures in the Gandhinama return to the macro, exaggerated scale appropriate for the regal and divine sovereignty of an Islamicate imperial history: Gandhi’s victories over whole countries. Russia, for example, has renounced weaponry and Turkey has converted to Gandhian nonviolence because of Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement. In Paris, also now significantly Gandhian, Nizami hears that London has disappeared and soon verifies that the banks of the Thames are indeed barren. Much like the parodic logic of a scrawny Gandhi turned monumental giant seen on the cover of Faisla, the Gandhinama’s prediction of London’s future disappearance offers a striking symbol of reversal, banishing British empire from the global map. We might say that Nizami has turned the all-seeing eye of imperial knowledge into a geographical ‘blind spot’.35

Gandhi and the Prophetic Rose As Nizami’s futuristic world tour closes with this surprising, ironic vision of a mysteriously vanished London, we come to image of the Rose (Fig. 4.2).36 Seen as a break in the surface of the written text, the visual



Fig. 4.2  Rose, illustration, H. Nizami, Gandhinama, 1922

image invites the reader to reflect and, perhaps like the residents of Kabul, pause amidst current conflicts to meditate more deeply on Gandhi himself. This sense of symbolic pause and profound visual encounter is grounded in longstanding traditions of Islamic visual modes and contemplative viewing, best exemplified in the aesthetic transformation of Quranic Arabic into visual, decorative and even figural forms. In stark contrast to assumptions about Islamic iconoclasm, Persian painting in particular represents the human forms of the Quranic prophets, including dramatic images of the Prophet Muhammad’s own mystical night journey to direct, divine encounter (mi‘raj).37 More specific to this particular iconography, flora often represent the Jewish, Christian and Quranic prophets, especially Muhammad himself, through a range of blossoms.38 The direct relevance of prophetic models is confirmed by Nizami’s discussion of Gandhi’s spirituality (ruhaniyat) in passages from his other writings, selected from varied journals and newspapers and appended to the Gandhinama’s world tour tale. Again, much like Gandhi’s image as the paradoxical ‘monumental peasant’ on the Faisla cover, Nizami states,



for example, that Gandhi’s birth was that of a prophet precisely because it was not among great rulers but in a weak community (kamzor qaum).39 While this is an unusual view of Gandhi, it is consistent with the Quranic idea that Allah sends a prophet (nabi) to every community (10: 47). More clearly still, Nizami’s compares Gandhi and Prophet Muhammad as Messenger (rasul) directly in his section ‘In the footsteps of the Prophet’s Sunnat’: Muslims have still not understood that Allah is using Gandhi as a messenger to present the Prophet’s teachings. And as much as Gandhi’s ideology is spread, the beauty of Mohammad’s preaching is revealed to people … Mohammad was addressing the entire universe, while Gandhi was only fighting for the freedom of one country.40

Like the tension of the great and the small, this passage addresses the prophetic in terms of scale, in terms of the relationship between the cosmic and the earthly, the cosmopolitan and the nationalist. As a Muslim writer, it is of course not surprising that Nizami preserves the ultimate religious and cosmic prestige for Muhammad. What is perhaps more interesting are the terms of that comparison itself: Gandhi is a lesser figure if seen within the nationalist frame of the freedom struggle, when compared to the Prophet’s universal message. This of course may seem like a contradiction to the cosmopolitan scope of Gandhi’s global legacy explored in Nizami’s world tour. However, Nizami says specifically in the above passage that understanding the continuity between Muhammad and Gandhi depends on the ‘spread’ of Gandhi’s ‘ideology’, a phrase pointing to the universal relevance of nonviolence beyond nationalist struggle, that is, a diffusion at the level of the everyday ethics and far-flung cultural contexts described above. Seen in the wider context of Islamic traditions, it is important to note that it is the ‘beauty’ and universality of Muhammad’s teachings Gandhi is here said to help reveal. This aesthetic emphasis presupposes the ways many Muslims relate to the Prophet foremost as a model of an exemplary life, rather than as the mouthpiece of abstract or propositional theological truths. This exemplarity is traditionally manifest in areas as down to earth as the Prophet’s sartorial practice and as elevated as his poetic, mystical and cosmic description. Ethical modelling and religious message are thus, importantly, not ‘ethical’ in a thin, rule-based or prescriptive sense, but rather of a narrative, devotional and intimate character, often tied to the



sense of the Prophet’s physical beauty, even physical fragrance. In one story, drops of the Prophet’s perspiration grow into a rose.41 In this context, Muhammad’s particular features and everyday habits—the types of things one knows about one’s intimates—make up a large part of the Hadith literature preserving his sayings and doings for the Muslim community. An everyday ethical emphasis in this sense resonates with the kinds of nonviolence that interested Nizami in his assessment of Gandhi’s global legacy, and, as important points of prophetic family resemblance. Nizami points out that, like the Prophet, Gandhi eats little, wears simple clothing, does his own house work, doesn’t drink.42 More importantly still, Gandhi speaks in support of the lower castes and the poor, features Nizami highlights as very much like Muhammad’s advocacy for women, girls, orphans and others on the margins of Bedouin society.

Concluding Reflections Following Anderson, scholarly accounts of print capitalism’s central role in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century imagining of nationalism have produced rich studies of novels, newspapers and modern nationalism, especially in South Asia. Analyses of print, literary texts and imagined communities have important parallels in religious studies’ work on the ways the modern ‘religions’ of Hinduism and Islam emerged as similarly homogenised unities. Scriptural, linguistic and organisational layers of uniformity shaped or even invented themselves according to western, Orientalist and missionary models of religion and, often, the political frame of the nation-state, even as they pushed back against imperialism.43 Much as subaltern and postcolonial critique of nationalist historiography has questioned unidirectional frameworks for ‘modular’ forms of modernity, however, so too recent religious studies work has complicated the idea of a unilateral semiticisation or westernisation of Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and other South Asian religions.44 As mentioned above, western forms of secularism themselves have been greatly contested in South Asia, by far more than so-called ‘fundamentalists’ of Hindutva or Islamist varieties.45 To take one relevant media-specific example, the centrality of visuality and orality as against literacy or the literary writ large in India has led some scholars to argue that the national imaginary in India has been formed by film far more than print. Advocating a different form of a ‘secular’ India, film scholars have shown particular sensitivity to the creative role of religion: for example, British press censorship in early twentieth-century



north India set the scene for new forms blending myth, epic, hagiography and modern media.46 In the sant films of the 1920s and beyond, the traditional stories of bhakti saints were retold with implicit and explicit reference to Gandhian anticolonialism; Prahlad’s resistance to an unjust demon king, a story which Gandhi himself promoted as a model of satyagraha, is one filmic instance among many. Though the prevalence of embodied deities, visual sacred practices (darshan) and gurus might seem to privilege Hindu traditions, Islamicate history, Muslim notions of the gaze, Sufi holy men and Urdu poetry have formed a major part of filmic worlds and shaped national consciousness, indeed paralleling the case made here.47 Thus, to consider film and visual studies within nationalist imaginaries and beyond them is not to oppose attention to print and text. It is rather to relocate each as modes within an expansive framework of everyday practice and imagination, evident within the study of press and print culture, as modelled in Hofmyer’s brilliant study of Gandhi’s press. As noted, she argues that the quintessentially logocentric, modern technology of the printing press needs to be rethought in terms of visual modes, ethical reflection and experimental, transnational contexts of emergent, imagined communities. Indian Opinion’s promotions of great Hindu epics, civilisation histories and biographies of great religious and political figures such as, for example, Muhammad are not nostalgic archaisms or political appeals to constituencies, but are themselves tools within a repertoire for novel experiments in slow reading, ethical reflection and new community relationships across presumed religious boundaries of Hindu and Muslim. Building on Hofmyer’s analysis of the colonial-born press and recent accounts of Urdu and Muslim print culture, I have emphasised the specifically Sufi framing and cosmopolitan vision of Hasan Nizami’s representation of Gandhi. In important ways, these recall the broader contexts of Persianate artistic and literary traditions and the spiritual terrain specific to the ‘Bengal-to-Balkans’ Islam that Nizami leads the reader across. Crucially, however, I have argued that a close reading requires greater attention be paid to reading, viewing and other habits ripe for reconfiguring and shifting forward into the future. The religious and imperial frontiers of Gandhi’s South African context, much like the geography and regional Islam of border areas crossed in Nizami’s imagined tale, can be seen as dynamic spaces for ‘altered normativities … generated in tandem with altered subject formation’.48 The experimental and miraculous tilt of Nizami’s work, like the wonder-filled Sufi holy man stories they draw on, ultimately evokes the ‘subjunctive in the exploratory mode’ that



‘test-driv[es] ideas that could find no other easy outlet’.49 That print-­ mediated utopian horizon offers a religion oriented towards geographically and temporally expansive, inclusive and embodied ethical practices rather than exclusive communities or identities. Nizami thus not only rightly foresaw a global Gandhi and imagined a rich transnationalism at the borders of empire and the nation, but can also be seen as a precursor to contemporary theory of religion’s critical reconsideration of models based in Protestant iconoclasm, privatisation and western secular modernity.50

Notes 1. On Gandhi’s use of dress, journalism and photography as constructive and dynamic elements of identity and communication, see Emma Tarlo, Clothing Matters: Dress and Identity in India (Chicago 1996). For discussions of visual and textual memories of Gandhi, see Christopher Pinney, Photos of the Gods: The Printed Image and Political Struggle in India, London 2004; McLain, ‘The Gandhi Story: An Official Indian Comic Book History of the Mahatma’, International Journal of Hindu Studies 18, 3 (2014): 291–325; Sumathi Ramaswamy, ‘The Mahatma as Muse: An Image Essay on Gandhi in Popular Indian Visual Imagination’, in G. Sinha, ed. Art and Visual Culture in India, 1857–2007, Berkeley 2009, pp.  236–249. The limited popular and scholarly attention given to the nonviolent Muslim leader Abdul Ghaffar Khan of the Northwest Frontier Province and his Khudai Khidmatgar casts the nonviolent, Pathan revolutionary in a secondary, derivative role. As a nonviolent Muslim, Khan is typically cited in ways that reinforce the assumed rule of inherent Muslim violence by his miraculous ability to follow Gandhi. See Mukulika Banerjee, The Pathan Unarmed: Opposition and Memory in the Northwest Frontier (Shimla 2001). 2. Jennifer Dubrow, Cosmopolitan Dreams: The Making of Modern Urdu Literary Culture in Colonial South Asia (Hawaii 2018). 3. Seema Alavi, Muslim Cosmopolitanism in an Age of Empire (Cambridge 2015). 4. David Hardiman, ‘Gandhi’s Global Legacy’, in J.  Brown (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Gandhi (Cambridge 2011), Chapter 12, pp. 258–262. 5. By coining the neologism ‘Islamicate’ as a way of talking about Islamic history, Marshall Hodgson refers ‘not directly to the religion, Islam, itself, but to the social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and with Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found



among non-Muslims’. See Marshall Hodgson, The Venture of Islam: Vol. 1 The Classical Age of Islam (Chicago 1974), p. 59. 6. Isabel Hofmyer, Gandhi’s Printing Press: Experiments in Slow Reading (Cambridge 2013). 7. Hasan Nizami, Mahatma Gandhi ka faisla (Delhi 1919); Gandhinama (Batala 1922). For the full text and cover image of Nizami’s Faisla text, see https://archive.org/details/in.ernet.dli.2015.376589/mode/2up. 8. Carl Ernst and Bruce Lawrence, Sufi Martyrs of Love: The Chishti Order in South Asia and Beyond (London 2003), p. 115. 9. Arthur Beuhler, Sufi Heirs of the Prophet (Chapel Hill 2008). 10. Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom: The Complete Version (Hyderabad 2016). 11. The close links between the literary and the journalistic, at times treated separately by scholars, are central to Dubrow’s analysis of the Urdu cosmopolis in Cosmopolitan Dreams, for example. Hofmyer’s Gandhi’s Printing Press (13–14) argues that distinct attention be given to periodical and pamphlet forms for, for example, their slower publication pace, portability, longer shelf life and diverse audiences, and frequent ‘undated’ extracts from a wide range of types of writing. 12. Tarlo, Clothing Matters, pp. 69–71. 13. Ibid., pp. 6–7. 14. McLain, ‘The Gandhi Story’, pp. 304–305. 15. Shantilal Shah, Gandhi in Cartoons (Ahmedabad 1970), p. 17, p. 19. 16. For the wider historical, centuries-long context see Mona Hasan, Longing for the Lost Caliphate (Princeton 2016). 17. Faisal Devji, The Impossible Indian: Gandhi and the Temptation of Violence (Cambridge 2012), pp. 80–86. 18. Eric Beverly, Hyderabad, British India and the World: Muslim Networks and Minor Sovereignty, c. 1850–1950 (Cambridge 2015), p. 126. 19. Afsar Moin, The Millennial Sovereign: Sacred Kingship and Sainthood in Islam (New York 2012), p. 54. 20. Shahid Amin, ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP 1921-2’, in R.  Guha and G.  Spivak (eds.), Selected Subaltern Studies (Oxford 1988), pp. 288–350. 21. Bob van der Linden, Moral Languages from Colonial Punjab: The Singh Sabha, Arya Samaj and Ahmadiyahs (Delhi 2008). 22. Hofmyer, Gandhi’s Printing Press, pp. 11–12. 23. Ibid., p. 90. 24. Ibid., p. 19. 25. Nizami, Gandhinama, p. 3. 26. Ibid., pp. 4–5.



27. On Nizami’s wider writings, especially concerning the relationship of Islam and Hinduism, see Marcia Hermansen, ‘An Early 20th Century Sufi’s (Khwaja Hasan Nizami) Views of Hinduism’, Comparative Islamic Studies (2012) 4, 1–2: pp. 157–179. For an important study of the transnational networks of Sufi-oriented Islamic traditions see Enseng Ho, The Graves of Tarim: Genealogy and Mobility Across the Indian Ocean (Berkeley 2006). 28. Shahab Ahmed, What is Islam? The Importance of Being Islamic (Princeton 2016). 29. Ilyse Morganstein-Feurst, ‘Locating Religion in South Asia: Islamicate Definitions and Categories’, Comparative Islamic Studies (2014) 10, 2: pp. 217–241. 30. Devji, The Impossible Indian, p. 86. 31. Sumathi Ramaswamy, The Goddess and the Nation: Mapping Mother India (Durham 2010). 32. Nizami, Gandhinama, p. 17. 33. Uday Mehta, ‘Patience, Inwardness, and Self-Knowledge in Gandhi’s Hind Swaraj’, Public Culture (2011) 23, 2: pp. 417–429. 34. Ajay Skaria, Unconditional Equality: Gandhi’s Religion of Resistance (Minneapolis 2016). 35. Tony Stewart, Witness to Marvels: Sufism and the Literary Imagination (Berkeley 2019), p. xv. 36. See the full text and images at https://archive.org/details/GandhiNama/ page/n17/mode/2up. 37. On visual representation of the Prophet Muhammad in Islamic contexts, see Christine Gruber, The Praiseworthy One: The Prophet Muhammad in Islamic Texts and Images (Bloomington 2019). For the more specific theme of the Prophet’s miraculous, mystical ascent, see Christine Gruber, and F.  Colby (eds.), The Prophet’s Ascension: Cross-Cultural Encounters with the Islamic Mi‘raj Tales (Bloomington 2010). 38. See, for example, the exhibit on popular Islamic iconography at Norway’s University of Bergen, at https://org.uib.no/popularikonografi/. An image detailing the lineage of the prophets via the symbolism of a flowering tree can be seen among the images collected across a wide range of transnational Muslim contexts, here via a poster from Jerusalem. https:// org.uib.no/popularikonografi/lrg/23_a_.jpg. Annemarie Schimmel provides much of the South Asian and broader poetic, ethical and devotional background in her study And Muhammad Is his Messenger: The Veneration of the Prophet in Islamic Piety (Chapel Hill 1985). 39. Nizami, Gandhinama, p. 17. 40. Ibid., p. 26. 41. Schimmel, And Muhammad Is His Messenger, p. 35, p. 39. 42. Nizami, Gandhinama, p. 26.



43. Richard King, Orientalism and Religion: Postcolonial Theory, India and the ‘Mystic East’ (London 1999). 44. In the context of nationalism and historiography, see Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton 1999). For the more recent context of rethinking models of religion and ‘rupture’ in colonial India, see, for example, Robert Yelle, The Language of Disenchantment: Protestant Literalism and Colonial Discourse in British India (Oxford 2013), pp. ix–x. 45. Rajeev Bhargava, Secularism and Its Critics (Oxford 1998). 46. Rachel Dwyer, Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema (New York 2006). 47. See Dwyer, Filming the Gods, ‘The Islamicate Film,’ ch. 3, and Philip Lutgendorf, ‘Is there an Indian Way of Filmmaking?’ International Journal of Hindu Studies 10, 3 (2006): pp. 227–256. 48. Safoora Arbab, ‘Nonviolence, Pukhtunwali and Decolonization Abdul Ghaffar Khan and the Khuda’i Khidmatgar Politics of Friendship,’ in A. Usman Qasmi and M. Robb (eds.), Muslims Against the Muslim League: Critiques of the Idea of Pakistan, New York 2017, pp. 220–254. 49. Stewart, Witness to Marvels, p. xvi. 50. For example, see Brigit Meyer, ‘Medium’, in S. Plate (ed.), Key Terms in Material Religion, New York 2015, pp. 140–144.


Gandhi and the Bengali Intellectuals: Perceptions and Portrayal of His Ideas in Contemporary Vernacular Journals in the 1920s and 1930s Sarvani Gooptu

Abstract  Mahatma Gandhi’s true legacy today is the impact he still has over people’s minds despite the changed world scenario. The impact on his contemporaries is still being fathomed today through written testimonies in books and periodicals. Following contemporary Bengali literary periodicals, Bharati, Bharatvarsha, Bichitra, Narayan, Prabashi and Ananda Bazar Patrika, this chapter traces the complicated relationship that Bengali intellectuals had with the Mahatma, alternating between undeniable attraction towards the man and his movement, yet also stirred time and again by conflicting opinions of those whom they revered as their leaders. Keywords  Bengal • Periodicals • Gandhi • Tagore • Netaji

S. Gooptu (*) Asian Literary and Cultural Studies, Netaji Institute for Asian Studies, Kolkata, West Bengal, India © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_5




At a literary meet in January 2019, two biographers of Mahatma Gandhi while discussing the relationship between Gandhi and Bengal made two very interesting, discerning and provocative comments. Historian Ramchandra Guha launched a conversation with the Mahatma’s grandson, former Governor and writer Gopal Krishna Gandhi with the words, ‘Gandhi gave Bengal sleepless nights and Bengal gave Gandhi sleepless nights’. To this Gandhi replied, ‘I think it is very good that they were together awake to fight the British and take the country forward into freedom’.1 It is this positive ‘wakefulness’ that is the basis of my chapter rather than the ‘who kept whom sleepless’ which has been the general underlying raison d’etre of any discussion on Gandhi and Bengali intellectuals. This atmosphere of discomfort and distrust in discussing Gandhi’s relationship with Bengalis has arisen out of a belief that there existed during the lifetime of the Mahatma an antagonism between two widely respected stalwarts of Bengal, namely, Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. It is believed in the case of Tagore that there were irreconcilable differences of philosophy between the forward-looking poet who believed in the importance of western sciences and did not like Gandhi’s boycott of schools as part of non-cooperation and the project of spinning for self-­ reliance, though the poet himself upheld scheme for rural welfare along with universal education at Santiniketan-Sriniketan. In the case of Subhas Chandra Bose, Gandhi was believed to have been less than fair in his lack of support for Bose’s re-election as Congress President in Tripuri (1939) followed by the latter’s complete ostracism in Indian politics till Bose finally proceeded with his alternative plan for India’s freedom. Notwithstanding these irrefutable facts all biographers of these men acknowledge their signal contribution to the growth of Indian nationalism and the great camaraderie, friendship and respect that they shared. After all the two beloved titles that Indians associate with Gandhi may be owed to these two so-called dissident admirers. It was Tagore who popularized the title of Mahatma for Gandhi who reciprocated by hailing the poet as Gurudev and it was Bose who referred to Gandhi as the Father of the Nation. My research on contemporary writing in vernacular literary journals reveals a multi-linear approach to the Bengal-Mahatma relationship. There is appreciation of both the charisma of Gandhi and serious discussion of his socio-economic ideas. There is agreement with his ideas on non-­ violence, fight against untouchability or his commitment to include the masses in politics. It is only in the case of the khadi movement and the



popularizing of spinning that we find vigorous debates emerging. This voluminous source has previously been ignored in most discussions of Gandhi in Bengal. Yet, the Bengali political/literary press which emerged from the early nineteenth century had by the second decade of the twentieth century become a formidable and critical opponent of colonial rule. Bengali literary journals were more analytical than the daily newspapers and help provide a more contemporary perspective than memoirs, autobiographies and biographies. In these journals, discussion of Gandhi’s personality, ideas and activities, whether in the form of essays or poems, were more responsive to immediate events or trends in ideas and less prone to retrospective revisionism. Much of the subsequent literature tends to be one-sided, either unqualified panegyrics or bitterly critical towards Gandhi. There is another aspect of this vernacular periodical literature which I consider important. They stand out not only because they seem to have eluded the gaze of most scholars on Gandhi, but also because their anonymity and plurality of views provide a mosaic of thoughts both complimentary and critical of unarguably the most important man of the Indian independence struggle. In this chapter, I have used essays and poems published between 1922 and 1939 in the Bangabani, Bharati, Bharatvarsha, Bichitra, Narayan and Prabashi, as well as the newspaper Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) in tracing the Tagore-Gandhi relationship between 1922 and 1932. In recent times some historians have revisited Gandhi-Bengal connection, particularly covering the pre-Partition days when Gandhi had long stays in this part of the country. Tapan Raychaudhuri in 1999 had been one of the first historians to analyse ‘where the twain met’ and what the areas of agreement between the two were in their attempt ‘to work out world -views and agenda in the context of their colonial experience’.2 Sugata Bose recently delivered two lectures in Kolkata and at Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, where he spoke about Gandhi’s abiding relationship with Bengal during these years.3 Also in his definitive biography of Subhas Chandra Bose, His Majesty’s Opponent, Bose examined the contentious relationship between Netaji and Gandhi and argued that despite ‘differences in perspective … commonalities in the anti-imperialist effort, and a sense of mutual respect and affection’, enabled them to work in accord for some time and later respect each other’s differences and express ‘genuine admiration’ for their respective commitment to divergent causes.4 Gopal Krishna Gandhi’s book, A Frank Friendship: Gandhi and Bengal, is a valuable source in this connection.5 Ramachandra Guha’s chapter on



‘Travelling with Tagore’ in his book Democrats and Dissenters is not only a brilliant study of Tagore’s inherent universalism, portrayed through his writings during his travels, but also contains a valuable discussion of the amity and discord between the poet and the Mahatma.6 No discussion on Rabindranath Tagore on any aspect is quite complete without the detailed sources provided by Prashanta Kumar Pal in his systematic and detailed biographical study of Tagore in 12 volumes where again the relationship between Gandhi and Tagore receives due attention.7 A complete history of the vernacular literary press in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Bengal is difficult to find and though Brojendranath Banerjee, in his 1935 book Bengali Periodicals (in Bengali), provides lists of newspapers and literary periodicals (SamayikPatra/patrika) as well as their authorship, management and readership details, his study is only valid for a few decades (1818–1868).8 P.N. Bose and H.W.B. Moreno’s A Hundred years of the Bengali Press is an interesting read because of the anecdotes surrounding the publication of the Bengali periodicals but which ends in 1920 when my study begins.9 Margarita Barns’ The Indian Press: A History of the Growth of Public Opinion in India, written in 1940, deals mainly with the role of Indian newspapers in forming a public opinion against colonial rule10 and, like Banerjee, she stresses the importance of the different Press Acts in moulding the growth of the media in India. An extensive study of the history of the pan-India press from its inception to the 1950s has been made by Natarajan where the major vernacular newspapers in the Gandhian era do feature but not the literary monthly periodicals that I am discussing.11 A more helpful discussion on literary journals is to be found scattered in memoirs and autobiographies but for obvious reasons tracing them is a herculean task. The literary journals that I have used for this chapter were household names and played an important role in moulding public opinion as evident from written testimonies of many leading personalities of the day. Rabindranath Tagore, in his memoirs Jibonsmriti, paid tribute to an earlier generation of periodicals like Bibidhartha Sangraha and Bangadarshan,12 while Haraprasad Sastri, the Sanskrit scholar and essayist, admired the success of Bangadarshan’s motto of ‘knowledge filtered down’.13Narayan, edited by Chittaranjan Das was, according to Sastri, popular even among those sections of Bengalis ‘who did not read Bengali, like barristers and the England returned, for its deep subject-matter expressed in simple language and because it broke through the barriers of conventions of literary style’.14 Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, linguist and educationist, recalled the



debt that all students during his youth owed to the literary periodicals when he writes about Prabashi: ‘at the beginning of each month we would rush to the Calcutta University Institute library for the latest edition of the periodical Prabashi of Ramananda Chatterjee, which had become a national institution for expression of political, literary and cultural history in Bengali’15 just as Chatterjee’s The Modern Review was for the readers in English.16

The Impact of the Mahatma Gandhi’s relationship with Bengal began much before he became the Mahatma, when ‘Indian Colonisation in South Africa’ appeared in Bharati in 1902.17 This was probably during his first visit to Santiniketan (Abode of Peace), and henceforth Gandhi was a frequent visitor during Tagore’s lifetime, and after his death helped to keep Visva-Bharati afloat. Bharati had been, under the able guidance of its Tagore family editors Dwijendranath, Swarnakumari Debi, Rabindranath and Sarala Debi, one of the most influential literary journals of Bengal from the 1870s, and Gandhi would have wanted to reach out to the educated Bengali bhadralok through it. It was in Bharati that writings on Gandhi first began appearing from 1922. Poetry was an important means by which Gandhi’s image was built up in the Bengali psyche and not simply his ideas, the reasons for his appeal are also discussed in these panegyric-style poems referred often to as bandana. Satyendranath Dutta, a famous Bengali poet, nicknamed ChhanderJadukar, or Wizard of Rhymes, wrote a poem titled ‘Gandhiji’ in Bharati in 1921 where he calls upon the people of Bengal to stop their mundane tasks at home and join the crowds who have responded to Gandhi’s call of satyagraha. Besides his gift of Satyagraha to Indians, the poet points out that the ‘star’ Gandhi’s ‘greatest endeavour is ahimsa in this violence filled world and whose place is in the lap of the Buddha and beside Tolstoy … finding him in their midst the Hindus and Muslims forsake their kazia, perform self control and swaraj and preach universal love in the world’.18 Hemendralal Roy’s poem with the same name ‘Gandhiji’ came out in Bharatvarsha in 1925, a journal started in 1913, as competitor to the Tagore family-run Bharati. It had been inspired by Dwijendralal Roy a nationalist poet and dramatist, contemporary to Tagore but who died in 1913, before Gandhi arrived back to India. Over the years it was developed under Jaladhar Sen as a forum for experimental writing in



literature and containing articles on politics, society and culture of India and the world. Hemendralal Roy, whose articles on different Asian countries in many journals make interesting reading, in the poem brings in the metaphor of the floods which bring suffering but also flush out the accumulated dirt of centuries. ‘Ignoring the loud noise of the violent warmongers, the mantra of the saint of ahimsa is crying out for people to follow a different path … his soft tones are audible above the loud cannons … this naked man from the east is here to flood your hearts with love’.19 These poems not only try to garner support for the leader in Bengal; there is an attempt to bring him in within the established pantheon of nationalist icons that had been established in Bengali literature from the Swadeshi period, so as to legitimize him in the eyes of the educated Bengalis who were in a dilemma following the critiquing of Gandhian ideas by their most loved living icon Rabindranath Tagore. In the wake of the Salt March to Dandi in 1930, Pyarimohan Sen Gupta, who was assistant editor of Prabashi and a lecturer in Bengali in Bangabasi College, writes a panegyric to the ‘saviour of Bharat’ in the periodical Bharatvarsha in 1931. Using familiar tropes of historical memory that created the nation in intellectual imagination, Sengupta brings forth names which through shared tradition create for the new leader an aura of nobility and background of established spiritual and physical sacrifice that are associated with these names in the minds of the people who are reading his poem. He asks, ‘Are you Pratap? Or King Puru? Are you Shivaji, the saviour of India? Are you the greatest warrior Krishna, the creator of the great Gita? Are you Buddha, Nanak or NemaiChaitanya? Or are you Mohammed of infinite valour? Are you Christ spreading powerful love in the world? You are the flowering of strength of Shivaji, carrier of the Buddha’s love, as you walk a slight figure, yet with proud assured steps vanquishing fear of death and followed by crores of men and women whose pain finds expression in your strong words and your dreams of independence’.20 What the poems were arguing on Gandhi’s behalf was put in prose by Ramananda Chatterjee in an editorial in Prabashi. Chatterjee had in two decades established himself as an influential editor addressing readers in both English (Modern Review) and Bengali (Prabashi, Pradip and Dasi). He started them while he was still residing at Allahabad and continued Prabashi after he moved to Calcutta in 1907 to circumvent the government restrictions imposed on publications during the Swadeshi movement against the British Act partitioning Bengal. Chattopadhyay’s biography by his daughter Shanta Nag claims that Modern Review and Prabashi



contained more coverage of Gandhi’s activities, starting from four articles by K.M.  Jhaveri on Gandhi in South Africa in 1909 to editorials by Chattopadhyay himself, than any other periodical in Bengal. In the 1920s Prabashi followed the Gandhian movements and Gandhi’s activities as well as offered analyses of the main principles that made Gandhi popular with the masses. Chatterjee in one of his editorials questions the allegations made in ‘some English owned, English language newspapers’ that Gandhi’s insistence on ‘non-violence in the Non Co-operation movement was a pose. But we have no doubt about his truthfulness or his simplicity. He desires Ahimsa from his heart’. He adds, ‘we tend to sit at home and blame either the government or Gandhi for all the ailments of the country … he writes, in Young India, that that cooperation will not win us Swaraj, so … through non-violent noncooperation we have to snatch Swaraj’.21 Chatterjee also argues that ‘it is undeniable that Gandhi only preaches what he practices himself and if following his ideals bring sorrow and distress, one can be sure that he himself will endure it first. That is his attraction and people realize that’, he says, in another editorial in 1922 titled ‘Reasons for Gandhi’s Impact’.22 It appears as if Chattopadhyay is garnering support for Gandhi in the face of criticism by his long-time associate and friend Tagore, whose changing opinions can be traced through the letters written by the poet to his friend C.F. Andrews.23 There is also evidence in these letters of Tagore’s disappointment at what he considered ‘betrayal’ by some of his close associates in Santiniketan, who had in expressing the ‘ugliest side of patriotism’ had dissociated themselves from the ‘higher ideal of humanity’. There is confirmation of this discord as well as misinterpretation of Gandhi’s ideology by many in another set of letters exchanged between Romain Rolland and Kalidas Nag, another close associate of Tagore.24 Similar essays analysing the reasons why Gandhian ideas were acceptable can also be seen in the novelist Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s article in Narayan,25 edited by Chittaranjan Das, a devoted Gandhian during the Satyagraha and Non-cooperation movement but who moved away after Gandhi halted the movement abruptly due to the outbreak of violence in 1922. Though there are some details of participants in the Non-cooperation movement in Bengal, there is hardly any in the journals. That is why Akshoy Kumar Roy’s article ‘Dandi’ is important and interesting. The writer, a school teacher in Bolpur, writes about following the footsteps of the ‘death-embracing soldier-volunteer’ (moronboronkarisvechhasainik). Overwhelmed at the opportunity to join the Mahatma on his Dandi



March, Roy took leave from his school and left for Sabarmati from where he writes for the journal Bichitra, describing his stay at the volunteers’ camp, his meeting with people from various parts of the country and discussions on politics. Finally, he describes the large conference on the shore at Dandi where in his words ‘white lotuses bloomed on the beach with everyone wearing khaddar and dhoti, or saree and Gandhi caps’, he describes the boiling of salt, the food he ate, the different activities of the volunteers during the salt campaign, and ends with the powerful emotion that he felt on the beach on the last day when as he writes, ‘admiring the sunset I was overwhelmed at the presence of the Mahatma before me beckoning me to his prayer meeting’.26

Analysis of Enduring Values of Economic Reconstruction and Self-reliance It is apparent from any preliminary analysis of the 30 odd articles that I have selected from these periodicals, that far more than direct praise for the Mahatma, it is his advocacy for eradicating economic problems of the poverty-stricken rural and urban poor that is appreciated. There is not the use of an overtly propagandist tone but an application of logic and economics is mixed with a nationalistic tone whereby an appeal is made to many of the educated and wealthy who have forgotten their past in their present ambition to ally with the alien rule for mere economic benefit. It is interesting that most Bengalis opened their minds to Gandhian ideas mainly in the non-cooperation era and its aftermath. Two main ideas that find resonance in these writings are Gandhian ideas of the value of the spinning wheel (charkha) symbolizing self-reliance but also its potential as the pivot of rural communities and the importance of khadi, or handloom cloth. It was also a favourite topic of debate because of the very fact that Rabindranath Tagore had set the ball rolling by critiquing the same. What is interesting is that most of the articles in the journals take a contrarian position to that of Tagore’s criticism and instead of directly arguing against the most famous Bengali by name they argue against the critique. Writing for Bharatvarsha in 1921, poet, essayist and founder of two other Bengali periodicals Mahila and Dipali, Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyay writes in an essay titled ‘Charkha’ about the three main needs of a family—food, clothing and shelter—and points out that the evils of westernization have destroyed our traditional conceptions of farming and animal



husbandry which would have solved the problems of food, clothing and shelter for majority of Indians. He reminds his readers that India is a hot country and wearing elaborate western-style clothing is not really suitable. Since the article is aimed at women readers he uses the example of a well-­ known social leader who had become an iconic figure of emancipation for Bengali ladies of the period, to make his point. ‘Look at Sarala Debi Chowdhurani, who despite coming from a well to do family and able to afford many fine garments, has turned to spinning the charka religiously every morning before she even drinks water. It is the command of Mahatma Gandhi that she follows … Before the British came to this country women in every home used to spin threads and in every courtyard there was a handloom which created cloth. Why can we not continue that?’27 The other important symbol of Gandhi’s economic constructive programme was the khadi or home-spun/home-woven cloth, which, unlike the spinning programme of charkha, was not merely a means of alleviation of rural poverty but could provide livelihood for farmers during the off-­ season as well as for the urban poor. Jogesh Chandra Roy in an essay ‘Charka and Khaddar’ in Prabashi, in 1922, as if in reply to an unspoken criticism, points out that not just spinning, if the farmer could cultivate the necessary raw cotton, it would supplement his household income. ‘The seeds will provide an opportunity for the oil-presser in the village and the women in the house could spin cotton threads even after their work in the fields and at home’.28 Roy accuses the Cottage Industry Association of Calcutta of gross negligence since it had ignored spinning as a profession. He says, ‘this industry is a necessary form of art by which every family in every village may be benefitted … spinning cotton will provide clothing at a much cheaper rate. And for the farmer who grows cotton, he will not even have to pay for his raw material’. Roy makes a final point that Gandhi’s intention of popularizing khadi was not simply economic but something more: ‘it was a patriotic duty, symbolizing improvement through self purification’.29 Hemendralal Roy in an article named the ‘Future of Charkha’, in Bharatvarsha, quoted Mahatma Gandhi as saying in a speech at Madras Corporation convention, that ‘if we are to remove the economic distress under which this land is labouring, we cannot do without the spinning wheel … I ask you to give it a place in your schools and your homes, no matter which community or political party you belong to’. Roy stresses that despite this appeal by the Mahatma, every Indian household still does not have a charkha. He points out that ‘to remove the economic distress even partially if not fully, then one has to use this inexpensive way (i.e.



through the use of the spinning wheel) to become self sufficient in cloth manufacture’. Comparing import statistics in India and China given by western experts, Daniel Defoe and Dunston, Roy points out that ‘the huge drain of wealth that large imports of cloth entails for India leads to her impoverishment whereas China has been able to not only increase production but also ensure restrictions on foreign import of cloth.’30 A number of articles also appeared in the 1920s discussing the importance of institutionalising the process of khadi making and spinning as the only way to prevent its eclipse again. Sarala Debi Chowdhurani in 1926 pointed out that it was ‘admirable that here (in Bengal) Satish Chandra Dasgupta, a chemist and freedom fighter under the inspiration of his mentor scientist, educationist and philanthropist Acharya Prafulla Chandra Roy, whose dedication to social service Gandhi admired very much, had developed an institution for propagation of khaddar’.31 ‘Kalashala’, established by Dasgupta, was inaugurated in 1927 by Mahatma Gandhi and Bharatvarsha treated its readers with a write-up by the editor Jaladhar Sen and many pictures of the different experiments including improvements of the spinning wheel, paper from bamboo pulp, oil pressing machine, twisted jute fibre and making palm jiggery.32 Poems and songs dedicated to Charkha and Khaddar also made an appearance. Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyay wrote the poems ‘CharkarGaan’ (Song of Charka), the rhythm reflecting the movement of the wheel in Prabashi (1921), and ‘Khaddar’ in Manashi O Marmabani in 1922. ‘Song of the Khaddar’ by Hemendra Kumar Roy complete with chorus and changing tune (surpherta) came out in Prabashi in 1922, and poet Sailendranath Roy’s poem which was a translation of 1806 Wordsworth poem, ‘Song of the Spinning Wheel’, was published in Prabashi in 1926. Singing these songs, specially Kazi Nazrul Islam’s ‘CharkharGaan’ (Song of the Spinning wheel), was routine in any nationalist public gathering. The vibrant and vociferous rebel poet of Bengal was an unlikely admirer of Gandhi, but in 1921, Nazrul roamed the streets of Comilla singing his PagolPothik (Mad Wayfarer) in his praise of Gandhi’s charisma and excitement at a united Non-cooperation movement throughout India. But disappointment at the sudden withdrawal of the movement by Gandhi in the wake of a sudden outbreak of violence in Chauri Chaura in 1922 left Islam and many Bengalis admirers disoriented and convinced that Tagore may have been right in his criticism of Gandhi’s movement where national self-­ discovery superseded universal brotherhood or that ‘political asceticism’ for students during non-cooperation would lead to ‘noneducation’.33



The Mahatma and Bengali Society In recent discussion around gender issues, Gandhi has often been criticised as having allotted a limited role to women in his writing and speeches. It has also been argued that women crafted for themselves greater roles in the freedom movement at all levels than was envisaged by the leaders. Without getting into the polemics of these arguments, one can say that in Bengal at least from the Swadeshi/revolutionary movement period onwards, women’s participation in the national movement became acceptable and respectable and more so through the Gandhian movements. The most interesting woman in this context was Sarala Debi Chowdhurani, writer, editor, social worker and one of Bengal’s early feminists, who followed her own destiny by working away from home in a school in Mysore and then shifting base to Lahore when she married the freedom fighter Rambhuj Datta Chowdhury. She came close to Gandhi when he stayed in her home in Lahore after the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and its aftermath. In 1924, Sarala Debi returned to Calcutta after her husband’s demise and resumed editorship of Bharati. But while one would expect vociferous support from Sarala for Gandhian ideas only one significant article emerges in 1924 in Bharati where she catches the bull by the horn so to speak: ‘I wear khadi and am an admirer of khaddar. I ask everyone to wear Khaddar because it is a symbol of India’s atma-shakti (self-reliance). The fire that is seething inside India will not be suppressed by any number of government laws and repression. It will not be cooled by any fine machine made cloth. It is only khaddar that will assuage the hunger for development, and soothe the wounded pride of the nation’.34 This and another article touching upon the Gandhi-Tagore controversy are the only two by the firebrand activist/editor. Sarala possibly wanted to retain the reputation of Bharati as a literary journal or she did not want to dilute her family loyalty since Rabindranath Tagore was quite open in his criticism of Gandhian ideas. Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP) highlighted the storm that broke out when Tagore received a gold medal from the hands of the Governor of Bengal on the very day Gandhi’s prison sentence was announced in 1922, followed by Tagore’s criticism of Gandhian ideals of Swaraj and khadi in 1923. ABP quoted Mohammadi, edited by Maulana Akram Khan that ‘it is tragic that the poet, who in Paris in 1920 had in an open letter criticised the British treatment of Indian soldiers and claimed never to have any “connection with this people altogether and do our duty to our country never asking for their aid”, was, on the very date that India’s



JanaganamanaAdhinayak Gandhi was standing trial with only love for his countrymen in his heart, standing before Ronaldshay to receive an accolade which he had declared to be “haram”.35 It must, however, be pointed out in all fairness to Tagore, that the medal in question was given not by the British Governor but by the University of Calcutta during their Convocation. In June of the same year while travelling in the US, Tagore was asked to comment on a recent book of Gandhi’s speeches and essays, and Tagore was quoted by ABP saying that ‘The greatness of Mahatma’s character is undeniable. His life is the epitome of sacrifice’. When asked by the journalist why the poet who is world famous does not speak about the Mahatma to the world, the poet replied that the Mahatma’s greatness and superiority of soul did not need any endorsement by him: ‘a naturally great soul does not need to contrive greatness and the light of his greatness can never stay hidden’.36 Yet a year after this reverential tone of the poet, another controversy arose from a speech by Tagore against the just ended movement, in the Calcutta University Institute just days before the Mahatma’s arrival in Calcutta. Reporting on this Sri Krishnadas wrote that despite efforts of the common friend C.F. Andrews, the difference of opinion between the two could not be resolved at the meeting and this was reflected in a number of Bengali and English periodicals who gleefully stressed the ‘victory of the poet’.37 This conflict between the two greatest sons of India had been precipitated from 1920 when at a conference in Gujrat, Tagore had been slighted by some Congress workers and this incident was subsequently reported and discussed by both the aggrieved parties and their supporters in what was a veritable press war between Young India and Ananda Bazar Patrika. In 1926, Sarala Debi once again revisited the debate in an article called ‘The battle between the worker and the poet’ in Bharati in 1926, where she printed a translation of Gandhi’s rebuttal of allegations with regard to his discord with the bard in Young India. Thereafter in an analysis of Gandhi’s reply, Sarala concludes that both the protagonists blame their ‘friends’ for ‘overreacting’. Despite her deep respect for Gandhi, Sarala here lays the blame for the discord on Gandhi saying that it was his impetuous habit of allowing his judgement to be clouded by hearsay that was unbecoming of a national leader. She uses as illustration a recent lecture by Gandhi at Berhampore college where on the basis of an allegation of a ‘Hindu widow’ to save the daughters of Bengal from the ‘impure lust of college students’ he chastised the entire youth of Bengal. In the article Sarala claimed to have taken the Mahatma to task appealing in a letter that



he refrain from making public statements based on unproven allegations.38 Yet Tagore and Gandhi tried time and again to work out their differences, setting aside public misgivings. A report in ABP in 1924 claimed that C.F. Andrews, who was in Poona to visit the Mahatma, had said that he had been sent there by the poet who had conveyed a message that ‘he (Rabindranath) was willing to serve in any way possible during the Mahatma’s illness’.39 In 1925, Mahatma was reported to have visited Bolpur and spent three hours with Rabindranath’s elder brother Dwijendranath as well as Rabindranath, ‘with whom the Mahatma claimed to have important matters to discuss’.40 The Mahatma also visited Sriniketan on this visit where he ‘expressed satisfaction’ with the work there. While Mahatma remained determined to ‘understand’ Bengali sentiment, and he believed that the Bengali literature held a key to that, it was not reciprocated so simply by the educated bhadralok Bengalis but rather with individual subjectivity which meant that based on their following, Gandhi was alternatively adored or hated at every turn of event, which was faithfully reflected in the periodicals and newspapers. In a complete turnaround of the acrimony of the late 1920s, in 1931, ABP reported that Rabindranath Tagore joined other Bengali intellectuals like Bipin Chandra Pal and Subhas Chandra Bose in signing an appeal for celebration of Gandhi Jayanti in Calcutta and Santiniketan.41 Yet within eight years another controversy, this time with Subhas Bose within the Congress would surface to muddy the waters. The Bengali angst regarding Gandhi’s lack of support towards Bose at the Tripuri Congress (1939) was omnipresent in the Bengali psyche, but was not covered in these literary journals, even in the miscellany or political news columns, which was strange since the Tagore-Gandhi controversy was discussed. The invisible yet durable bond of commitment to the nation, that Gandhi, Tagore and Subhas Chandra Bose shared, remained intact until their deaths. After Tagore’s death in 1941, the link that the Mahatma had maintained with the Tagore family and Santiniketan continued and in December 1945, the Mahatma addressed the students at Visva-Bharati saying that ‘Gurudev was like a great bird, wide and swift of wings, under which he gave protection to many … we all miss the warmth of his protecting wings … Santiniketan has been the abode of peace to me and since my family was given shelter on arrival from South Africa it is a pilgrimage to me and whenever I got the opportunity I came here to seek peace and tranquility’.42 His connect with Bengal, as Gandhi reputedly said, was



unbreakable, not least because of his love for the Bengali language, which he practiced till the last day of his life, but because of the respect he had for the local culture. Unlike individual opinions expressed in biographies and memoirs, the writing in contemporary journals faithfully follows the undulating curve of affinities, as well as discord and disagreement over particular issues and ideas. Ultimately a consistent study of these diverse opinions and representations can help to fill in the various pieces that form the mosaic of history. Tagore’s respect for the man and his philosophy, despite all his disagreements, expressed in an address to a group of farmers of Sriniketan, and published in the periodical, remains as proof of this complicated relationship that Bengal had with the Mahatma. ‘The Mahatma is a great man, almost divine, a rare appearance in the world. I do not know if you have all met him … but everyone recognises him as a Mahatma … Let us embrace that great soul’.43

Notes 1. Mahatma Gandhi and the land that cradled his last breath: Gopal Krishna Gandhi and Ramachandra Guha discuss facets of Bengal’s relationship with Gandhi, The Telegraph, 23 January 2019, https://www.telegraphindia. com/states/west-bengal/mahatma-gandhi-and-the-land-that-cradledhis-last-breath/cid/1682537. 2. Tapan Raychaudhuri, Perceptions, Emotions and Sensibilities: Essays in India’s colonial and Post colonial Experiences (Delhi 1999), pp.141-151. 3. Sugata Bose, 5th Sabarmati Lecture: “Mahatma and Netaji: Understanding a Special Relationship”, 16 August 2019, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=W-4caqt-pR0. 4. Sugata Bose, His Majesty’s Opponent: Subhas Chandra Bose and India’s Struggle against Empire (Delhi 2019), pp. 135-179, 324. 5. Gopal Krishna Gandhi, A Frank Friendship, Gandhi and Bengal: A Descriptive Chronology (London 2008). 6. Ramachandra Guha, ‘Travelling with Tagore’ in Democrats and Dissenters (Delhi 2017), pp.300-338. 7. Prasanta Kumar Pal, Rabijiboni: A biography of Rabindranath Tagore, Vols I-XII (Calcutta 2002). 8. Brojendra Nath Bandopadhyay, Bangla SamayikPatra (1818-1868) (Calcutta 1935). 9. P.N.  Bose and H.W.B.  Moreno, A Hundred Years of the Bengali Press: Being a history of the Bengali newspapers from their inception to the present day (Calcutta 1920).



10. Margarita Barns, The Indian Press: A History of the growth of public opinion in India (London 1940). 11. J.  Natarajan, History of Indian Journalism: Part II of the Report of the Press Commission (Delhi 1955). https://archive.org/details/ historyofindianj00nata 12. Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Jibonsmriti: Reminiscences’, RabindraRachanabali (Collected Works), Vol IX (Calcutta 2008), p. 453. 13. Haraprasad Sastri, RachanaSamagra (Collected Works 1853-1931  Vol II),Sukumar Sen (ed.)(Calcutta 1981), pp. 29-30. 14. Ibid., pp. 162-164. 15. Prabashi’s role in moulding the youthful minds mentioned in Kshitimohon Sen’s Preface in Shanta Nag, Bharat Muktisadhak Ramananda Chattopadhyay O Ardhashatabir Bangla, Calcutta: Firma KLM, 2000 (reprint), pp. (6–11) She also mentions in her book the responsibility that Rabindranath Tagore and his students and teachers of Visva-Bharati undertook to collect and translate important essays from foreign periodicals for Prabashi. 16. Suniti Kumar Chatterjee, Ogranthito Suniti Kumar (Unpublished works of Suniti Kumar), BaridBaran Ghosh (ed.), (Calcutta 2009), pp. 222-223. 17. M.K.  Gandhi, DakshinAfricayBharatopanibesh (Indian Colonisation in South Africa), Bharati, Vol 26 issue 1, 1902, pp. 37-42. 18. Satyendranath Dutta, Gandhiji, Bharati, Vol 45 issue 6, 1921, pp. 562-569. 19. Hemendralal Roy, Gandhiji, Bharatvarsha, Vol 13 issue 1/2, 1925, pp. 230-232. 20. Pyarimohan Sen Gupta, Gandhi Bandana, Bharatvarsha, Vol 18 issue 2/5, 1931, p. 678. 21. Ramananda Chattopadhyay, BibidhaPrasanga, Mahatma Gandhir Dayitva ebongDesherKartavya (Mahatma Gandhi’s responsibility and the duty of the nation), Prabashi, Vol 21 issue 2/5, 1921, pp. 713-718. 22. Ramananda Chattopadhyay, BibidhaPrasanga, GandhirPrabherKaron (Reasons for Gandhi’s influence), Prabashi, Vol 22 issue 1/1, 1922, pp. 136-143. 23. Rabindranath Tagore, Letters from Abroad, Madras: S. Ganesan, 1924. 24. Romain Rolland- Kalidas Nag Correspondence, The Tower and the Sea, Calcutta: Papyrus, 1956, pp.31, 59. 25. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Mahatmaji, Narayan, 8(6), 1922, pp. 457-464. 26. Akshoy Kumar Roy, Dandi, Bichitra, Vol 5 issue 1/1, 1931, pp.74-84. 27. Basanta Kumar Chattopadhyay, Charka, Bharatvarsha, Vol 8 issue 2/5, 1921, pp. 513-517. 28. Jogesh Chandra Roy, Charka O Khaddar, Prabashi, 22(1)(3), 1922, 324-331.



29. Ibid., pp.329-331. 30. Hemendralal Roy, CharkharBhabishyat (the future of Charkha), Bharatvarsha, Vol 12 issue 2/5, 1925, p. 782. 31. Sarala Debi Chowdhurani, KhadiPratishthan, Bharati, Vol 49 issue 1/3, 1926, pp. 87-88. 32. Jaladhar Sen, KhadiPratishthanKalaShala, Bharatvarsha, Vol 14 issue 2/3, 1927, pp. 454-461. 33. Rabindranath Tagore, Letters from Abroad, op cit., p. 65. 34. Sarala Debi Chowdhurani, KhadiPratishthan, Bharati, Vol 49 issue 1/3, 1926, pp. 87-88. 35. ABP, 29 March 1922, quoted in Chittaranjan Bandopadhyay (ed.), RabindraPrasanga: Ananda Bazar Patrika, 13 Mar 1922- 21 March 1932, Vol I (Calcutta 1993), p. 249. 36. ABP, 23 June 1922, op cit, pp. 251-252. 37. Sri Krishnadas, Mahatmajirshongeshaat mash (7 months with the Mahatma), ABP, 21 July 1923, op cit., pp. 255-256. 38. Sarala Debi Chowdhurani, KalerPrabaha, Kobi O KormirLodai (The Duel between the Worker and the Poet Poet) Bharati, Vol 49 issue 1/3, 1925, pp. 91-98. 39. ABP, 23 February 1924, op cit., p. 264. 40. ABP, 2 June 1925, op cit, p. 274. 41. ABP 27 September 1931, op cit. p. 332. 42. CW, Vol 89, 18 December 1945, p. 60. 43. Rabindranath Tagore, MahatmajirSheshBrata (the last vow of the Mahatma), Bichitra, Vol 6 issue 1/4, 1932, pp. 462-465.


Gandhi and Broadcasting: Missing Narratives in Media, Nationalism and the Raj Chandrika Kaul

Abstract  There has been virtually no serious study of Gandhi and broadcasting. The topic has either been ignored or downplayed as representing another example of Gandhi’s so-called disdain of modern technologies. However, this has served to obscure an interesting and important dimension of the Mahatma’s approach to and use of the media. This chapter analyses Gandhi’s views on radio and his interaction with key broadcasters as well as with the medium per se in India and overseas. Gandhi’s two live broadcasts—the first from London during 1931, and the second in 1947 after Indian Independence—are also discussed. The full text of both broadcasts are reproduced in the Appendix. Keywords  Broadcasting • AIR • BBC • London • Radio

C. Kaul (*) University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Scotland, UK e-mail: [email protected] © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_6




‘Do I talk into this thing?’ These were the first words ever broadcast live, albeit inadvertently, by Mohandas Gandhi ahead of his speech to the USA.1 The year was 1931 and the location, London. Gandhi was in town as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress to attend the Second Round Table Conference (RTC). He was just weeks shy of his 62nd birthday. My chapter will focus on Gandhi and radio, a subject that has been curiously neglected, in studies both of Gandhi and of broadcasting. Gandhi’s engagement with radio, the circumstances surrounding his broadcasts and his interaction with broadcasters will be analysed to help situate the medium within the Mahatma’s media repertoire and evaluate its impact. The transcripts of Gandhi’s live studio broadcasts, which were delivered ex tempore, are reproduced in the Appendix. Radio broadcasting came of age during the inter-war years of the twentieth century, and its dominance was firmly established by the Second World War. We witness the rise to prominence of major broadcasting organisations in democratic societies like Britain and USA as well as the role of radio in facilitating the growth of totalitarian regimes in Europe. The potential of radio is captured in such iconic broadcasts as Roosevelt’s fireside chats in pre-war America, Hitler’s appeals to Nazi Germany and Churchill’s clarion call to arms over the BBC during the war. What such examples help illustrate is the power of radio to create ‘a world of unspoken communication … a private experience’ as well as ‘to turn the psyche and society into a single echo chamber’.2 These decades also saw the development of popular nationalist movements in India, which came to be epitomised largely in the person of Gandhi. Gandhi was a hands-on editor who wrote copiously for four newspapers over his lifetime, beginning in South Africa with Indian Opinion and later in India for Navajivan, Young India and Harijan. He claimed that satyagraha (truth/soul force), which underlay his anti-colonial strategies, would have been impossible without the press. Given the salience he attributed to speaking and writing and his prolific career as a journalist, it is striking that Gandhi only ever made two live broadcasts, the first as noted above and the second from New Delhi in 1947. How do we explain this apparent anomaly in light of the primacy accorded to the mass media by Gandhi?

Gandhi, Dunstan and Early Broadcasting The first radio transmission in India occurred during 1921 under private aegis. The banner of broadcasting was flown precariously by radio clubs in Bombay, Calcutta, Madras and Rangoon, prior to organised broadcasting



which began with the inauguration of the Bombay studios of the Indian Broadcasting Company (IBC) in July 1927.3 A small broadcasting station was also established in Calcutta on 27 August. The majority shares in the IBC were held by Marconi operating through the Indian Radio Telegraph Company, along with a number of smaller investments by Indian entrepreneurs. The year 1927 also witnessed the transformation of the BBC from a company to a corporation under its mercurial Director General, J.  C. W.  Reith; the publication of Gandhi’s Autobiography in English translated from Gujarati by his secretary, Mahadev Desai, and the beginnings of regular air travel from England to India.4 Attempting to model their organisation on the blue print of the BBC, the Directors of the IBC welcomed Reith’s suggestion of Eric Cipriani Dunstan as General Manager, the first, and, as it would turn out last, incumbent of the post. Dunstan had begun work as a BBC announcer only a few months earlier and had no prior experience of India, though at 32, he had a varied administrative career behind him, attributes that Reith valued. With characteristic aplomb, Reith averred that his own lack of broadcasting expertise had not hindered his successful management of the BBC. Dunstan was also to have a successful media career after India, earning the sobriquet ‘The Man with the Golden Voice’. Organised broadcasting was a relatively new phenomenon in the 1920s and IBC had done well to secure Dunstan’s services. Unfortunately, that was about the only silver lining in the early history of private broadcasting in India. Dunstan arrived in Bombay at the end of December 1926 and spent several months overseeing the establishment of studios, erection of transmitters as well as liaising with provincial authorities and the Government of India. He was ‘very optimistic’ and had ‘great plans’ claiming the service would ‘cater for Indians’.5 Intended as a commercial enterprise, the IBC Directors announced that they would strive to emulate the BBC and work broadcasting in the spirit of public service. Dunstan was joined by several other BBC employees working in Bombay and Calcutta. Thus, the imprint of the BBC on nascent Indian broadcasting appeared significant both in conceptual approach and in personnel. Yet, despite assurances of freedom from official supervision, in the context of the Raj, it was inevitable that the ether would become subject to official regulation. P.  J. Edmunds, the Director of Wireless, sat on the IBC’s Board of Directors. Divided between European and Indian outputs, the programmes were ‘subject to official censorship and nothing controversial’ could be featured.6 The IBC diet was a combination of news,



education and entertainment, with transmission limited to a few hours each evening. Though realistic about the speed of progress when compared to the BBC, Dunstan was nevertheless optimistic and worked ceaselessly to overcome major financial and technical challenges.7 Average incomes were very low and receiver sets and equipment were imported and priced beyond the reach of all but the most affluent Indians (including in the Princely States), and Europeans.8 The expected take-up of radio licences from the public understandably failed to materialise. Further, broadcasting in the subcontinent posed a unique set of cultural challenges; for instance, the plethora of languages required significant outlay even on basic news bulletins. As Dunstan noted, ‘we had to broadcast the news in English, Urdu, Bengali, and Gujarati’.9 The IBC was also severely undercapitalised with only 1 lakh—about £7,500—of working capital. By February 1928, Dunstan had begun to remonstrate about a further 40% reduction in programme allowance and the cutback on daily broadcasting from 5 to 3.5 hours.10 The contrariness of the financial structure was inexplicable to Dunstan: my programme allowance, i.e. the money I had to spend for providing a service of news and entertainment, was 30 rupees or £2.10.0 a day. I was paid nearly £3000 a year! I pointed out that this was employing the Captain of an Atlantic liner to run a ferryboat round Bombay Harbour, but it availed nothing.11

He even tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to raise £65,000 in Britain.12 ‘Thank heavens I have a sense of humour’, Dunstan confided to Reith, ‘otherwise I should have committed suicide some time ago’.13 Therefore, and as I have detailed elsewhere, severe financial constraints meant low salaries, staff retrenchment, poor output and miniscule outlay on programming, with virtually non-existent publicity or promotion. Combined with poor licence sales, piracy and evasion of fees, this forced the IBC into voluntary liquidation and it ceased broadcasting after 28 February 1930.14 Dunstan and some other former BBC employees had resigned en masse long before this and left India. I have not been able to unearth any evidence that Gandhi was ever directly involved with the IBC.  This is not surprising given the limited remit of the organisation. Yet, neither should it imply that Gandhi was unaware of radio. I have discovered an intriguing and hitherto unknown instance of Gandhi’s interest in broadcasting and his engagement with



Dunstan. Describing his first meeting at Juhu beach, about ten miles north of Bombay where Gandhi was having a short respite, Dunstan wrote: I arrived one afternoon to find the Mahatma had gone down to bathe. The tide was out and it was a longish walk down to the water. Coming out was that familiar skinny figure with his dhoti, in which he had been bathing, clinging to him. He waved something at me as I approached and said “I know who you are. This is soap—I’ve been washing in the sea. You English don’t approve of that, do you?” and he took my arm and walked back to the shanty with me and had a long talk about the future of broadcasting in India. What a lovable man he could be.15

Frustratingly, Dunstan does not elaborate on what Gandhi said. Given a hectic schedule, the fact that he chose to spend several hours in Dunstan’s company suggests that Gandhi not only took an interest in radio but was also open to discussing its future in India.

Global Gandhi and the Media The early 1930s marked a watershed when Gandhi’s personification of civil resistance served as the critical launch pad for a more widespread international coverage, which, aided by Reuters, Fleet Street and newsreels, helped him reach global audiences. It is against this backdrop that we witness how the developing synergy between the Mahatma and the American media contributed towards Gandhi’s first foray into live broadcasting. Gandhi could appeal directly to the masses and work on a national as well as a transnational stage, as demonstrated by his successful appeal to ‘world sympathy’ during the Salt March (1930) that inaugurated several years of the Civil Disobedience movement.16 Gandhi occupied centre stage in this propaganda battle conceptualised as a pilgrimage, as he trudged with his company of carefully handpicked followers to the sea at Dandi to pick up a handful of salt from the seashore in open defiance of British law and in the full gaze of amassed journalists and film cameras.17 Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru recalled decades later how this episode stood out in his memory: ‘the picture that is dominant and most significant is as I saw him marching, staff in hand, to Dandi … Here was the pilgrim on his quest of Truth, quiet, peaceful, determined and fearless’.18 At Sabarmati Ashram, ‘Scores of foreign and domestic correspondents



dogged Gandhi’s footsteps … what exactly would he do? … The excitement spread abroad. Cables kept the Ahmedabad post office humming’.19 It was this dramatisation of Indian nationalism that prompted Time, the American news magazine, to feature Gandhi on its cover with the title ‘Saint Gandhi’. Under the heading ‘A Pinch of Salt’, the newsmagazine argued that if a western politician in a loin cloth had walked barefoot to London, ‘Englishmen would have thought him mad’. However, with Gandhi, ‘Englishmen were not amused but desperately anxious’.20 Time also named Gandhi ‘Man of the Year’ in 1931.21 Roderick Jones, Chairman of Reuters, selected the Dandi March amongst his ‘ten greatest news stories of 1930’ emphasizing how his choice reflected the ‘preferences of the British public’.22 It is revealing that the marchers were enjoined by Gandhi to carry a diary amongst their meagre provisions and to keep a daily record. All the while, he continued writing for Navajivan, Young India and the Bombay Chronicle and granting interviews to papers of varied political persuasions such as the conservative New York Times and the liberal Manchester Guardian. Gandhi apologised to reporters for having to suffer the same privations as the marchers, but noted, ‘we do need the help of newspapers. … this struggle is a unique one. … In the last analysis, even the Press representatives have come for public service, have they not?’23 Freedom of speech and of the press were integral constituents of the liberal narrative of governance in Britain, however there was considerable ambiguity inherent in the response to such freedoms when translated into an imperial context. R. J. Moore summed up this predicament when he noted how just a few years earlier at the launch of the Non-­cooperation movement, Gandhi had ‘reckoned astutely upon the forbearance, the latent liberalism, of imperial democracy. His appeal was essentially to the British sense of justice of the Indian cause. He calculated that a nation whose history was the story of the growth of liberal institutions would not remain insensitive to a vigorous but restrained appeal for freedom. He … overlooked the fact that liberalism also nourished the imperial idea’.24 Not everyone sang from Gandhi’s hymn sheet, but in the conceptualisation and execution of the March, Gandhi managed to incorporate the media into the heart of the Indian struggle and turned journalists from passive bystanders into unwitting participants.



Gandhi’s First Live Broadcast: London, 13 September 1931 No one was more surprised than Gandhi that his March had been allowed to proceed and attributed this to ‘world opinion which will not tolerate repression’.25 Though he was imprisoned soon after, the March opened the floodgates to national protests including the picketing of the Dharasana Salt Works, an event witnessed by Webb Miller of the United Press of America (UP). Miller’s report exposing horrific police brutality against unarmed and peaceful demonstrators created a dramatic worldwide impact not least in the USA, where it resonated with its own history of anticolonial rebellion.26 Thus, Gandhi had appealed to world opinion and appeared to have won. During 1930–31, his close working relationships with two other American journalists—Jim Mills of the Associated Press of America (AP) and William Shirer of the Chicago Herald Tribune—came to play a crucial role in the broadcasting story.27 Unlike Reuters, foreign news agencies like AP and UP were unencumbered by a gentleman’s agreement with the Raj, thereby ensuring that a large cross section of US and overseas news outlets were now privy to detailed accounts of the Mahatma’s struggles. The ensuing personification of mass resistance helped to inform and interest overseas audiences who were largely unaware of the details of the nationalist struggle. Mills was on board the ship carrying Gandhi to attend the RTC in London during 1931, and during the long sea voyage was able to shoot ‘thousands of feet of film’ of Gandhi, as well as many stills for reproduction in US newspapers and magazines. It is surely noteworthy that whilst Gandhi could have stopped Mills from filming, he chose not to. As Mills remarked, Never did he willingly lend himself to pictures. Yet never did he forbid me to photograph him. Always he maintained a curiously detached, impersonal, negative attitude towards my efforts to capture his features for the screen and for history.28

Invariably Gandhi kept his eyes downcast but by the end of the voyage, ‘he was calling me by my first name’, and showed great interest in the cameras, being ‘amazed’ by their mechanical craftsmanship.29 The 1930s witnessed the maturation of an international electronic network with newsreels, radio and cinema appealing to transnational



audiences. What needs to be underscored is the response of the Mahatma to this perspective and the creation of a global Gandhi, an idea carried through into his first broadcast speech. The developing synergy between Gandhi and the American media also explains why despite no prior experience, Gandhi was amenable to making a live transatlantic broadcast the day after he set foot on English soil where he was not subject to censorship. Shirer was in London to welcome Gandhi and helped make the arrangements with the Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS), in what Louis Fischer termed a ‘typical American enterprise’.30 The CBS under Paul W.  White had developed an extensive foreign news network with more overseas correspondents than any rival and a reputation to match.31 The broadcast took place from the sitting room of Kingsley Hall where Gandhi was residing along with his entourage as the guests of the pacifist Muriel Lester. The broadcast was scheduled for 6.30 pm, with Gandhi being served his supper early, but come the moment he appeared remarkably unconcerned about the occasion and the need for punctuality, much to the consternation of everyone present. Lester’s reminiscences convey both the romance of radio and the moment when the Mahatma became a broadcaster, and deserves citing at some length. Downstairs there was an actual trial of physical strength in progress. Unauthorised reporters, having told lies downstairs, tried to storm our sitting-­ room by force, but the doorkeepers’ stolid quietness effectually barred their entry. I was becoming perturbed, and seizing the rough notes I had made in the morning, when the programme still included a five-minutes talk by me, I entered the room at 6.30. I found the psychological contrast between the personalities who were crowded into the sitting-room exquisitely amusing. The men who were making a financial scoop of the American message looked portentously solemn: the Press Association reporters highly gratified: the efficient engineers thoroughly preoccupied with switches, wires, levers, lights and signals. They looked behind me for my guest—I couldn’t help laughing. “He’s still eating his supper,” I whispered, for the operator had that instant received the signal and the United States of America was now linked up to our sitting-­room. In a broadcast studio one learns to carry on quite important conversations by eyebrow-lifting and we all seemed to understand each other’s wishes. The announcer’s voice went out over the Atlantic.



“I’m speaking from Kingsley Hall, Bow, East London where Mr. Gandhi arrived yesterday. In front of the microphone sits Miss Lester, who is his hostess. I have pleasure in introducing her to the listeners of the United States of America.” My notes were sketchy; moreover, I had no idea how far I must spin them out before Mr. Gandhi’s supper would be properly over; but all such considerations were fruitless. My job was to concentrate on introducing Americans to my beloved Kingsley Hall and to say why Mr. Gandhi had chosen to stay here rather than anywhere else. When I had arrived at the beginning of the sixth and last page, four minutes and a half had gone; then out of the corner of my eye I saw the door open and a villain of the piece composedly enter the room, as though he were acting according to plan. Such innocence of expression precluded any imputation of guilt.32

Gandhi began his speech by claiming that the results of the RTC would impact on ‘the whole world’. India was ‘almost a continent’ with ‘one-fifth of the human race’ and ‘one of the most ancient civilizations’. The reason for the struggle having drawn the attention of the world, I know, does not lie in the fact that we Indians are fighting for our liberty, but in the fact that the means adopted by us for attaining that liberty are unique and, as far as history shows us, have not been adopted by any other people of whom we have any record. The means adopted are not violence, not bloodshed, not diplomacy as one understands it nowadays, but they are purely and simply truth and non-violence. No wonder that the attention of the world is directed towards this attempt to lead a successful, bloodless revolution.33

The re-iteration of world in the opening salvo and throughout, including in his final clarion call, is of considerable significance. ‘I have, therefore, no hesitation whatsoever in inviting all the great nations of the earth to give their hearty co-operation to India in her mighty struggle’.34 Shirer provides us with an evocative insight into Gandhi’s first interaction with wireless technology. ‘Gandhi Appeals For World’s Aid in Freeing India’ ran the Tribune’s banner headline. Finally he came, hitching up his loin cloth, and squatted before the microphone. He grabbed the microphone as if it were a toy and for 30 seconds radio officials gritted their teeth nervously. There was a complete silence. Gandhi looked at the microphone fascinated. But not a word came from



him …. Then … Gandhi started to talk. His sharp eyes stared at the centre of the microphone. His voice was low, but distinct. He later said that he was not nervous in the least, but that the microphone and the idea that it was carrying his frail voice across the ocean to millions he has never seen fascinated him.35

Gandhi had skilfully appropriated a global audience for his appeal, conscious of the inherent power of radio to transcend boundaries. Mills claimed that despite facing ‘an invisible audience’ of millions, Gandhi nevertheless ‘approached the microphone like a veteran actor, betraying no nervousness, never faltering and never having to search for an appropriate phrase’.36 His report for AP was widely distributed with some American newspapers also printing Gandhi’s broadcast verbatim.37 To drive home Gandhi’s message with Americans, his long-time friend and biographer, the Quaker C. F. Andrews, wrote a detailed article which the New York Times published under the flamboyant title, ‘India’s Mahatma Faces British Lion’ on the same day as the broadcast.38 Gandhi’s adventure in broadcasting was making the news back home too due in no small measure to his publicity machines being fed with regular updates by Mahadev Desai from London. Desai provides a revealing account of the impact of Gandhi’s broadcast published in Young India. The most numerous among foreign visitors have been Americans of course, and ever since Gandhiji gave that broadcast to America, we have been having hundreds of letters from America each week. The message of non-violence from his own lips, has thrilled them through and through.39 Desai included an extract from one such correspondent who wrote: Your radio message came clear as a bell over the ocean. I heard it easily. I congratulate you on the excellency [sic] and spiritual quality of your talk. We need it desperately for we sing songs of peace and prepare for war.40

Though critical of Gandhi’s politics, like many amongst the British press, Anglo-Indian newspapers also helped publicise Gandhi as persona grata in the heart of Empire. The Times of India, the largest and most influential amongst these, offers a good case in point. Mr Gandhi, the paper noted on one occasion, ‘when not in London … is having a thoroughly enjoyable time’. He was ‘due at such heights of respectability and Imperialism



as Eton and Oxford. At Oxford he will be the guest of the Master of Balliol, Mr A.D. Lindsay, who preached at St Andrews Church when he passed through Bombay recently’.41 Newsreels also routinely featured Gandhi. The Empire and the Excelsior theatres in Bombay showed ‘Mr Gandhi’s Arrival in England’ by British Movietone News, though the Mahatma had to settle for second billing to Maurice Chevalier in Paramount’s Playboy of Paris!42 The Rialto, advertised as ‘the home of Fox Talkies’, offered patrons a newsreel about Gandhi’s ‘London apartment’.43

Broadcasting in British India I have analysed elsewhere the history of broadcasting in British India during the inter-war years with the Raj take-over of radio following the failure of the IBC.44 In less than four years broadcasting had become solvent and even marginally profitable with the Indian State Broadcasting Service (ISBS) attached to the Department of Industries and Labour. In 1935, once more at Reith’s recommendation, Lionel Fielden moved from the BBC to assume the role of Controller of Broadcasting. The ISBS was re-­ christened with the much catchier title—AIR—and began broadcasting from a 20 KW new medium wave station in Delhi during 1936. Broadcasting remained precarious and small scale compared to the size of the country. Major obstacles continued to hinder the further expansion of AIR despite the heroic energies expended by a coterie of dedicated enthusiasts. Like the BBC under Reith, the Raj had a monopoly over national broadcasting in India. Yet, that is where any comparison ended. Despite Gandhi’s successful broadcast to the USA, in India, nationalists were effectively censored from AIR given the government decree that radio was not for political use. Even during legitimate electioneering in 1937, as prescribed in the framework of the Constitutional Act of 1935, Indian political parties and candidates were denied airtime. Critics would argue that this embargo applied to everyone except the British who had ensured through a caveat in the regulations that in important or urgent scenarios the airwaves would be available for official use. In socio-cultural terms too, the Raj showed little enthusiasm to utilise AIR ‘to inform, educate and entertain’ in a manner that Reith was championing for the BBC. Whereas in Britain, the BBC quickly became the single most important cultural institution, officials in India claimed they had little surplus to expend on a nascent broadcasting network. Yet, the fate of radio under the



Raj during the inter-war years also discloses a reality altogether more prosaic and hesitant, characterised overall by an abysmal lack of creative policymaking.45 Reith was confounded by this when early in the process the Viceroy, Lord Reading, whilst in London, refused to visit the BBC (then a company). Frustrated Reith confided in his diary: ‘There is neither vision nor recognition of the immense potentialities of broadcasting … It is an unparalleled opportunity for service in India, but they have let the chance go’.46 The situation hadn’t improved much under Reading’s successor Lord Irwin, who, when approached to deliver radio talks on contemporary developments, claimed that he ‘felt worried; doubted if it would be advisable; thought on the whole he had better not’.47

Gandhi, Lionel Fielden and AIR These are the crucial set of factors that should be underscored when analysing the diffidence shown by Gandhi to engage with AIR. Indians were recruited to contribute to a range of ‘soft’ cultural programming, albeit always on shoestring budgets and after careful vetting. The output was marginally more diverse after the inauguration of the BBC’s Empire Service in 1932, though before the Second World War its appeal was limited primarily to European and Indian elites. ‘Hard’ news remained the preserve of the Raj through its continued association with Reuters, the main official news provider to AIR. This scenario would have been anathema to Gandhi as it went against all the cherished ideals which he associated with English journalism and the Fourth Estate. The bounded context of imperial control choked any form of liberation through communication that broadcasting might have provided a politician like Gandhi. This helps explain why Gandhi consistently refused to add radio to his media repertoire. My dear Fielden, you know and I know that if I do so I shall increase the number of your listeners by four or five millions overnight: if I knew you were going to stay in India, I might do it; if you don’t, I shall merely increase the strength of my enemies.48

Ironically, Fielden was sympathetic to the nationalist viewpoint. With a liberal mind-set, he was interested in Indian social and cultural growth, which he considered a necessary precondition for the expansion of AIR.



I believed … that the spoken word, rightly handled, could perform miracles for a vast and illiterate country. To get the ear of the masses and pour into that ear the wisdom of its own great men … But to get the ear—that was the first, the crucial, point. Without that, all else failed.49

Fielden and Gandhi developed a relationship of mutual respect and Gandhi shared the Controller’s frustration at a lack of creative vision stymieing AIR.50 Rajkumari Amrit Kaur often acted as liaison between the two. Born into the Kapurthala royal dynasty, Kaur was schooled in England and attended Oxford University. Returning to India she championed health and women’s affairs and volunteered as Gandhi’s secretary. Thus we find Gandhi writing to Kaur upon learning that Fielden had been ill with malaria, ‘Please tell Fielden with my regards that he is working himself to death without a just cause. He ought to take leave and get well quickly’.51 Unlike Gandhi, she was responsive to Fielden’s requests and participated in some rural programming, with the Mahatma occasionally evincing interest in her broadcasts.52 From the letter below, it would appear that having advised Kaur prior to one such talk, he was keen to proffer feedback. I have just finished your broadcast. Your experience of the village is excellently reproduced. The other part is not well balanced. You say “old systems … have perished.” If they have, where is the cause for revival? But you yourself show later that they have at most decayed, not perished. And then you begin at the wrong end—build roads and houses!! Who can do the thing? Surely sanitation comes first. We were agreed upon it too!! And you began with it. … And then you have not made a sharp division between what people can and should do themselves and what the State can and should.53

In January 1937, Gandhi wrote frankly to Fielden responding to an overture from him. This letter is crucial for it reveals not just an empathy between the two men but also Gandhi’s appreciation of the nature of public discourse and the limited parameters of the broadcasting project under the Raj. I welcome the confidence you have given me. My sympathies are with you in your troubles. But you have to take them philosophically if you must stick to the post even though it be to the good of the country. Any attack on your personal character is a vile thing. But every society has its share of blackmailers. These you should laugh at. Then there are the critics. You must not



expect informed criticism. Very few write for the public good; most write for money. Then there is the third class who don’t come to you as you would have them do. They don’t in spite of themselves. Those who know you would like to avail themselves of the facilities you may give them, but they know that the harm done by such co-operation will be greater than the good intended. Take Rajkumari herself. Even she could go only a certain distance and no further. You must not grieve over this but take it as inevitable in the circumstances surrounding us.54

They also argued about the best way forward for India. Gandhi accused Fielden of being ‘“a milk and water liberal … this country is an armed camp, and you must be on one side or the other.”’55 To Fielden’s riposte that his job as a broadcaster was to remain neutral, Gandhi is reported to have said, ‘“Then both will throw stones at you.”’56 However, despite never being able to persuade him to broadcast, Fielden ‘went quite often to see Gandhi’ and made ‘a number of Indian friends’ including Nehru and Naidu,57 who supported school broadcasts on AIR including rural programming begun in 1933 with the Bombay station broadcasting in Marathi, Gujarati and Kannada. Given such developments and the camaraderie with the Controller, there is mileage in positing a tantalising counterfactual: could Gandhi have missed a trick and failed to exploit an opportunity during the Fielden years to influence the socio-economic debate through broadcasting if only at the margins? Gandhi was aware that Fielden felt unable to make any headway with AIR and remarked to Kaur, ‘I quite agree with you that Lionel should give up the present job and do what he can in England’.58 By 1939, the total number of radio licences in British India had reached only 92,782 and Fielden delivered a damning verdict: Four years of hard labour had produced fourteen transmitters and a competent staff—and in four years the four hundred million people of India had bought exactly eighty five thousand wireless sets. It was enough to make a cat laugh. It was the biggest flop of all time.59

Fielden’s contract was terminated in 1940, though he had left India in 1939. He worked briefly under Sir Malcolm Darling at the BBC, helping to organise India-related programming on the Eastern Service during the war.60 He claimed to have become ‘obsessed with the idea of immediate Indian independence’, writing about it in the British press and going on



lecture tours on behalf of the ‘Indian Freedom Campaign’ run by Fenner Brockway.61 Out of this grew Fielden’s impassioned critique of the British empire, Beggar My Neighbour.

War, Broadcasting and Gandhi The outbreak of the Second World War, and the extension of the range of combat to the East with a Japanese invasion seemingly imminent by 1942, galvanised the Raj to a more spirited response to expanding the radio network and developing its technological capacity. By 1943 new studios in Delhi had created, according to the Government, the ‘largest centre of broadcasting activity in the East’.62 A 100-kilowatt transmitter capable of overseas broadcasts was set up in 1944 at Delhi. Unsurprisingly, the official stranglehold on the airwaves increased, with a more intensive use of AIR and, further afield, of Radio SEAC (South East Asia Command) under Lord Louis Mountbatten.63 The British also began more extensive propaganda to project an image of a sympathetic imperium, for example, their use of AIR and the BBC to promote the Cripps mission and constitutional offer during 1942. The demands of war also enabled more Indians to move into managerial roles at AIR. A separate Ministry of Information and Broadcasting was established in 1943, with A. S. Bokhari subsequently becoming Director General. His brother Z. A. Bokhari, Fielden’s protégé at AIR, was seconded for two years to BBC London, where he joined a talented diaspora of broadcasters from the subcontinent.64 Any leverage that the Indian National Congress might have used as the elected representatives in 8 of the 11 provinces as well as controlling the Centre following elections in 1937 was irretrievably lost when they resigned en masse to protest at the unilateral declaration of war by the Raj without due consultation. Historians have argued that this fatally damaged their political voice. Interestingly, as with the resistance movements in Europe, these years also provided an opportunity for some Indian revolutionaries to engage, albeit in a limited way, with an underground propaganda offensive principally through Subhas Chandra Bose’s ‘Azad Hind Radio’. Bose broadcast from Berlin in May 1942, after escaping from house arrest and making his way to Europe, with the intention of exploiting the fascist propaganda machines against the Raj. In addition, the Quit India movement, launched by Gandhi in August 1942, saw the emergence of a short-lived clandestine wireless network with bulletins in English and



Hindi/Hindustani aired under the signature line: ‘This is the Congress Radio calling from somewhere in India’.65 The early 1940s were witness to a significant divergence in Gandhi’s rhetoric vis-à-vis the use of force in pursuit of independence. His appeal to the Raj—if you cannot give us freedom, give us anarchy, but just go— sums this up. Even before the start of the Quit India movement, Gandhi had spoken publicly about how ‘my attitude has undergone a change …. We have to take the risk of violence to shake off the great calamity of slavery’.66 If Gandhi did not condone outright the use of violence during the Quit India campaigns, he did not condemn it outright either, as he had so forcefully done in the past. He certainly did not call off the movement at the first outbreak of disturbances, as he had been quick to do in 1922. With most of the Congress high command, including Gandhi, incarcerated almost immediately, he could not direct the movement with the latitude he had in 1920–22 or in 1930–31. Nonetheless, it is important to note, as Greenough does, how many of the protestors continued to invoke Gandhi’s name as their leading inspiration.67 It would undoubtedly have counted for much had he issued statements from jail or gone on a fast against the use of violence. The Mahatma choosing to remain silent spoke louder than words.

Gandhi and Post-War Broadcasting in India The war ‘finally took the profit out of imperialism’.68 After its end India moved inexorably towards independence with the election in 1945 of Labour to government under Clement Attlee. There was an impetus towards greater freedom of the airwaves and a relaxation of wartime censorship. This was accompanied by further Indianisation of the civil service and government departments with Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel becoming the Minister of Information and Broadcasting in the 1946 Interim government. Bokhari remained at AIR after the war but migrated to Pakistan at Independence. As I have argued earlier, though broadcasting allowed for an immediacy of engagement with a greater public, Gandhi’s opposition to it was linked to its bounded historical context in India. It wasn’t radio Gandhi was objecting to, but the Raj’s restrictive practices and absolute control. Prior to the arrival of the Cabinet Mission in 1946 to finalise details of the Independence plan, Gandhi issued a statement to the press which also spelt out the practical difficulties involved in his use of radio at this delicate juncture in the negotiating process.



Many foreign and local newspaper reporters have been good enough to come to me to ask questions on the topic of the day. A newspaper man myself, I can sympathize with their desire. But they should sympathize and co-operate with me in the delicate mission of adviser to the Cabinet Mission when I tell them that I cannot be advising and broadcasting to the world on the matters covered by my advice.69

Gandhi also believed that radio had yet to reach the poorest of the poor, a constituency that he championed throughout his career. His mode of dress and life was meant to bring him closer to—Daridranarayan— ‘God of the destitute’—and to the wretched of the earth. Even when urged by his trusted colleague in arms Sardar Patel to take to the airwaves, Gandhi replied in Gujarati, ‘The really poor are never able to listen to the radio. I am therefore not at all enthusiastic about it’.70 His preferred method of protest was abstinence. A moot point, however, remained—the poorest were also illiterate and so arguably needed intermediaries to access Gandhi’s papers too. Gandhi never dissuaded his colleagues from broadcasting or questioned their motives. As noted before, a few nationalists chose to work with the medium, believing that some access was better than none. Rabindranath Tagore wrote a special poem ‘Akashvani’ (Voice of the Skies), to mark the opening of the first short wave station at Calcutta, and in 1940 he expounded on the horrors of war over AIR.71 Gandhi’s relationship to broadcasting can also be understood by reference to his character and campaigning style. Despite being accessible, Gandhi was instinctively shy and to engage with the multitudes he needed at some level to feed off their collective energy. Even when he addressed thousands who most certainly could not hope to hear him, he managed to engage their interest largely on account of his physical presence in their midst. For the audience this was a form of shared performative ritual. Shahid Amin has persuasively argued that Gandhi was treated as godlike and the act of receiving his darshan (divine view) was akin to visiting a holy shrine.72 What needs to be emphasised here is how this was, in turn, a cathartic experience for Gandhi too. The Mahatma was aware when he spoke into the microphone, his voice often amplified by loudspeakers, on dusty maidans or on manicured lawns, that he was communing directly with his audience. The spontaneity of the masses and their frenzied acclaim for Gandhi made an indelible impression on Shirer. Comparing the Indian scenario with what he came to encounter later in Nazi Germany, he argued that though Hitler was, ‘wildly proclaimed by a mass of 200,000 Germans’



at a party rally in Nuremberg, ‘that meeting was staged, the audience was captive’. The Indian crowds were ‘unorganised’ and sometimes ‘disorderly, milling about in their excitement at merely being in the presence of the Mahatma’. The Germans were ‘deeply moved by the masterful oratory of Hitler’. Yet Gandhi scarcely raised his voice and made no gestures. I doubt if the vast majority in the huge crowds I saw ever caught his words. They were fulfilled by the sight of him and especially by receiving his darshan. I witnessed the phenomenon; I cannot say that I fully understood it.73

Rarely, if ever, speaking to a script, Gandhi may have appreciated having an audience in situ to help him broadcast to the best of his abilities. Yet, enclosed within a soulless recording studio, surrounded by inanimate microphones and staring in silence at a few worried technicians, he was deprived of the synergy that more direct participatory processes offered. Print journalism provided him with a platform to engage his readers through letters to and from the editor and feedback in rival publications. Many of his speeches were subsequently printed in his journals or in the Hindustan Times, thereby further extending their shelf life. Broadcasting was unlike these scenarios, and, despite the immediacy of the medium, Gandhi had limited means of engaging with its impact. This may well explain his reluctance to participate in organised studio productions, apart from being rather ill at ease during the process. Whilst delivering his first broadcast in London, and much to the consternation of the onlookers, Gandhi insisted on squatting in front of the microphone in a manner reminiscent of his posture during his public meetings. The ambience of the AIR studio was altered in 1947 to put the Mahatma at his ease, as the Indian Listener noted, ‘A special studio was fitted with the ‘takhposh’ (low wooden settee) which was daily used by him for his prayer meeting addresses at Birla House’.74 Finally, one crucial development during 1947 that had a significant bearing on the general media environment was the advent of Mountbatten to the Viceroyalty. Mountbatten was the antitheses of his predecessor, the dour Lord Wavell. With a ‘Hollywood personality’,75 he revelled in the limelight and considered public relations a necessary adjunct to good government.76 Mountbatten enjoyed close working relationships with several members of the Congress high command including Gandhi and thus engendered the trust necessary to open the airwaves further. A good



example of this is the coverage accorded by AIR to the Inter-Asian Relations conference during late March to early April. This was prompted, in part, by the fact that the world’s media had followed international delegates to report from Delhi and any racial segregation would have been damaging to British prestige. A 20,000 strong audience gave a rousing ovation to Gandhi when Naidu introduced him as ‘one of the greatest Asians of the age’, before his speech at the concluding session which was recorded and replayed by AIR.77 The momentous decision to bring the plan to grant Independence with Partition forward to August 1947 was made public via Mountbatten’s press conference on 3 June, and the leaders of the main political parties broadcast their acceptance to the nation shortly afterwards.78

‘It is a wondrous thing’: Gandhi and Broadcasting After Independence It is symbolic of India’s freedom at midnight on 15 August 1947 that one of its most iconic moments would centre stage the freedom of the airwaves with AIR transmitting Nehru’s famous oration: ‘Long years ago, we made a tryst with destiny’. The Partition of the subcontinent meant that the nine extant AIR stations were also divided with those at Lahore, Peshawar and Dacca going to West and East Pakistan respectively, and the remaining six stations and 18 transmitters remaining with India, the latter still only reaching 11% of her population and covering 2.5% of the land mass. These stations were based at Delhi, Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Lucknow and Tiruchi. The recording of the Mahatma’s speeches had begun from earlier that summer with radio correspondents now competing with press reporters for a soundbite. Gandhi took to announcing his plan of action through AIR during his Calcutta peace mission in August 1947 where he helped maintain communal amity acting as ‘a one man boundary commission’.79 From late September onwards Gandhi also allowed his prayer meetings in Birla House, Delhi, to be recorded by AIR for transmission later the same night. K. D. Madan, a programme officer assigned to the task, noted how this remained ‘a tedious process and was done on unwieldy presto discs 16 to 18 inches in diameter’. Birla House was about 3–4 miles away, so the speech would, ‘in the first instance, be carried by telephone lines to the studios of AIR, and recorded in the control room for subsequent broadcast’80 (Fig. 6.1).



Fig. 6.1  Mahatma Gandhi at the All India Radio headquarters in New Delhi from where he gave a broadcast message to refugees, November 1947. Contributor: Dinodia Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

Gandhi’s second, and as it transpired final, live broadcast was made on 12 November on the occasion of the Hindu festival of Diwali. Unable to reach them in person, Gandhi was persuaded to broadcast to thousands of refugees from Pakistan who were daily pouring into the Kurukshetra refugee camp, over 100 miles away. Nine-year-old Jagdish Batra was in the camp and reminisced years later how ‘a big Murphy radio was kept on a table and a loud speaker was placed in front of it so that everybody could hear what Gandhi had to say. A photograph of Mahatma Gandhi was also kept on a chair’.81 (The broadcast was subsequently printed in the Harijan and the Hindustan Times.) Gandhi arrived at the studios accompanied by Amrit Kaur and is claimed to have said of radio: ‘It is a wondrous thing. In it I see Shakti; the miraculous power of God’.82 He began by explaining his distress at being away from those suffering in the camp.



I do not know if it is only you or whether others too are listening in to me today. This is only my second experience at the radio. … Though I am speaking from the Broadcasting House, I am not interested in such talks. To suffer with the afflicted and try to relieve their suffering has been my life’s work. I hope, therefore, that you will accept this talk in that light. … Seth Ghanshyamdas Birla suggested that I should broadcast a message to you and hence this talk.83

Concluding Reflections It is tempting to consider the counter factual: the success Gandhi may well have enjoyed had he engaged with radio as a social reformer from the inter-war years. Might he have been able to put his message of rural reconstruction, primary education and removal of untouchability across more efficiently? After all, he did establish a new journal Harijan in 1933 with similar motives. Some of his colleagues like Amrit Kaur and Patel certainly thought so, as did Fielden. Nonetheless, it remained the case, that with radio he was unable to direct either the medium or the message given the expansive powers of pre-broadcast censorship and official control of AIR. Replying to Fielden’s plea on one occasion, Gandhi is claimed to have said: ‘But why should I help a machine which will be used against me?’84 The government’s control over AIR was markedly different from those exercised over the press.85 The Raj had quickly realised the fallacy of establishing an official newspaper—it would simply not be taken seriously by anyone, least of all by their countrymen. It was found to be far more effective to combine indirect persuasion, disguised subsidies to newspapers and Reuters, with fines and legal restrictions enshrined in their Press Acts, to control the print media and make it serve imperial interests.86 Ultimately, the British could always depend on a recourse to emergency powers, forcible closures and imprisonment to suppress or eliminate adverse publicity. Further, despite the repeal of Lord Lytton’s Vernacular Press Act (1878) by his successor, the Liberal Lord Ripon, this so-called ‘gagging’ act, along with the Ilbert Bill agitation (1883), was enough to convince most moderate Indians of the fundamental underlying racism and inequality of the Raj.87 Though he fought against such injustices in South Africa, it took Gandhi longer to reach a similar conclusion in India, the parting of the ways only occurring after the shambolic official response to the massacre at Jallianwala Bagh on 13 April 1919.88



Thus newspapers enjoyed far greater latitude under the Raj because there was no mileage in having a state-controlled press and the British had managed over several decades to construct a workable model of persuasion with control. In the final analysis, endemic mass illiteracy effectively curtailed its direct impact. The broadcast model in India was both new and inherently different as the experience of the IBC and AIR demonstrated. Despite having the blueprint of the BBC to work from, the project of both private broadcasting as represented by the IBC, and public broadcasting as embodied in the AIR, was found to be practically, financially and ideologically incompatible with the ethos of the Raj. The collapse of the IBC by 1930 and its Government take-over spelt the death knell for any incipient nationalist aspirations for radio. Bernard Cohn has argued that the ‘conquest of India was a conquest of knowledge’.89 The Raj bureaucrats were aware of the ‘soft power’ that control over the mass media would bestow upon the imperial state, as were their nationalist opponents like Gandhi.90 Imperial rule depended essentially on a monopoly of information, the acquisition of knowledge and control over its interpretation. Broadcasting, when compared to the press, was far more lethal as a medium of influence as it had a greater reach and was not impeded by illiteracy. When it appeared that the airwaves could potentially spread the contagion of opposition, the Raj took pre-­ emptive measures to ensure that the battle between strategic control and freedom of expression was over before a single shot had been fired.91 Furthermore, given their shared democratic ethos and co-operation during the Second World War, the Raj could ill afford to resort to draconian repression of the US media. On the contrary, officials were alert to the increasing necessity of securing a good press overseas, not least in response to the success of propagandists like Gandhi.92 Though the Raj attempted to censor foreign wires and newspaper reports, it was helpless beyond a point to completely suppress these. The successful engagement of American journalists with Gandhi needs to be appreciated against this broader historical canvas. How far can Gandhi’s response to radio be explained by his supposedly techno-sceptic mind-set? In his early writings in Hind Swaraj, Gandhi had proclaimed all machinery to be bad, and throughout his life he was confronted by the accusation that he was ‘an arch enemy of machines’.93 Moreover, during a long career, he was occasionally contradictory and inconsistent in both rhetoric and praxis. Gandhi notably championed



handicrafts and manual labour and often criticised the impact of industrialisation. Arguably, Gandhi’s belief in the sanctity of human labour, epitomised in the hand-spinning charkha, was also a recognition of the economic realities facing India’s rural millions and is perfectly compatible with his appreciation of modern electronic technology which he characterised as the divine power (Shakti) embodied in the wireless. Further, Gandhi’s conceptualisation of the impact of machines and technology as well as his vision of ethical economics developed over time becoming nuanced and sophisticated.94 As he replied to one critic in 1934: ‘We do want machines but do not wish to become their slaves. We should make the machine our slave’.95 During a meeting with Charlie Chaplin who claimed to be ‘somewhat confused’ by Gandhi’s ‘abhorrence of machinery’, the Mahatma explained his economic rationale thus: ‘England with their large-scale production has to look for a market elsewhere. We call it exploitation. And an exploiting England is a danger to the world’.96 He wrote in a similar vein in Harijan just before the Second World War: ‘The economic imperialism of a single tiny island kingdom is today keeping the world in chains. If an entire nation of three hundred millions took to similar economic exploitation, it would strip the world bare like locusts’.97 Gandhi displayed a lifelong fascination with innovation from when he first set sail for England as a teenager and was impressed by the power of the modern steamship, marvelled at the Suez Canal and enjoyed the spectacle of electrification in London. Throughout his life he routinely communicated with officials, fellow nationalists and countless personal correspondents, using electric telegrams appreciating the speed and efficiency this offered. He was even persuaded to watch his first feature film during 1944 whilst recuperating after his release from prison, though he did not enjoy the experience!98 Based on my research, one cannot accuse Gandhi of being antediluvian and opposed to the cultural modernity represented by radio because of his refusal to interact fully with it. He appeared to follow radio developments in India and, despite coming to broadcasting later in life, admired the global reach of wireless technology. Gandhi was happy to interact with broadcasters like Dunstan and Fielden as individuals, but was averse to working with the institution of broadcasting under imperial constraints. This was in keeping with his general mantra—he was anti-Raj, not anti-­ Briton. Gandhi’s reluctance to deliver live broadcasts from a studio may be characterised as idiosyncratic, but that ought not to be confused or



conflated with an antipathy to radio. The ultimate aim of broadcasting as understood by Gandhi, as well as by Reith (though for different ends), was public service; but in the context of a subjugated India, AIR was not fit for his purpose. The chronic paucity of radio sets in rural India also convinced Gandhi that he could not reach the people who most needed his help— the toiling masses and the poor who were beyond the pale of broadcasting. Gandhi remained a utilitarian, and technology had to serve a practical purpose within a suitable context. Thus, he exulted in the engineering marvel of the Suez Canal linking East and West, yet found the Eiffel Tower overrated when he visited the World Exhibition in Paris during 1890. Evidence suggests that he approached broadcasting in a similar fashion but also that he did not incorporate radio into his ideological worldview as he had print. This may well have been simply a matter of timing and access. It may also reflect the advantages of portability and accessibility that the press offered as well as his belief in the legitimising authority of the printed word. Dalton has argued that Gandhi was ‘not primarily a theorist but a reformer and an activist’.99 As a politician his interaction with technology was often dictated by pragmatism, thus puzzling correspondents who took his word too literally, like Margaret Bourke-White, the Time and Life photojournalist who wrote how Gandhi’s anti-machine references made at prayers always disturbed me, especially since they were delivered through a modern microphone. When the talk was finished, Gandhi would step off his prayer platform in to the milk-white Packard car belonging to the richest textile manufacturer in India, Mr Birla …. Of course Gandhi took nothing for himself, and the members of his ashram lived in austerity.100

Gandhi remained shy and ill at ease before a camera and arguably did not possess the panache or timbre of his voice required of a radio star. Yet, the Mahatma was no less a showman for his causes and cognisant of the power of the media to forge anti-imperial identities. He believed almost instinctively in the power of the image as Tarlo has demonstrated vis-à-vis his sartorial choices.101 With his image and pen Gandhi could exercise some measure of control, over the ether he emphatically did not. With Independence, there was a dramatic difference in the daily reliance on AIR by the Congress, now in power. During the general chaos following Partition, we notice regular reference in Gandhi’s pronouncements to the use of the airwaves with his post-prayer perorations from



Birla House now routinely retransmitted by AIR. Gandhi appeared to welcome this additional platform for his discourse to the nation, political allies and opponents alike. Ultimately, what Gandhi’s interaction with broadcasting reveals is the necessity to acknowledge that the influence of technology is linked to its historic specificity, that is, what endows it with an explanatory power. Gandhi’s frequent reference in his speeches to myriad dialogic forms—letters, telegrams, telephone calls, press articles, news agency reports and broadcasts—reveals yet again what a consummate communicator Gandhi was and how he continued to have his finger on the pulse of the nation. His murder on 30 January 1948 has meant that we will never know how much further the Mahatma might have gone in his interaction with radio free from imperialist shackles. Madan was present in Birla House to record Gandhi’s address as usual on that fateful evening and recalled being preoccupied alternately checking the recording equipment one moment and turning my gaze the next moment towards the garden path leading from the main house to the lawn along which Gandhiji was slowly approaching. I recall his coming up the two steps from the garden-path onto the raised lawn … The next instant, I again turned to check the microphone for the last time. I had not completed the check when a gunshot rent the air. I first thought someone had burst a firecracker … But barely seconds later another shot rent the air and I sensed what had happened. Shoving aside the equipment, I ran towards the direction of Gandhiji. At that instant, I saw a man dressed in khaki pull the trigger for the third time from barely a few feet. In a moment Gandhiji fell pulling down Manu and Abha with him as he slumped.102

For a communicator par excellence, it is perhaps a fitting tribute to Gandhi to have 12 November commemorated as the Jan Prasaran Diwas (Public Service Broadcasting Day) as announced by the Indian Government in 2000. Yet, to live up to the ideals Gandhi sought to propagate of, and through, the media is clearly proving to be far more challenging.

Notes 1. As cited in M. Lester, Entertaining Gandhi, London 1932, p. 46. 2. McLuhan, Understanding Media, p. 319. 3. ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, Broadcasting and the British Raj in the inter-war years’, in Chandrika Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial



Experience, Britain and India in the Twentieth Century, London 2014, 2017, pp. 123-171. 4. D. Cryle & Chandrika Kaul, “The Empire Press Union and the expansion of imperial air services 1909-1939 with special reference to Australia, New Zealand & India’, Media History, vol. 15, no. 1, February 2009, pp. 17-30. 5. ToI, 4 January 1927. 6. Extracts from E.C. Dunstan’s unpublished memoirs. My sincere thanks to Dr M. Dunstan for permission to cite from the memoirs 7. See Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, pp. 123-171. 8. There development trajectories of broadcasting were different in Princely India. 9. Dunstan, unpublished memoirs. 10. Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, p. 127. 11. Dunstan, unpublished memoirs. Emphasis added. 12. Dunstan to Reith, 14 & 22 February 1928, E1/897/3, BBC Written Archives Centre (WAC). BBC copyright content reproduced courtesy of the British Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved. 13. Dunstan to Reith, 5 July 1928, E1/897/4, WAC. 14. For a fuller discussion of IBC, ISBS and AIR before the Second World War see Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, pp. 123-171. 15. Dunstan, unpublished memoirs. Emphasis added. 16. ‘India as viewed by the American media: Chicago Daily Tribune, William Shirer and Gandhian Nationalism,’ in Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, pp. 71-122. 17. For a detailed discussion see Kaul, ‘India as viewed by the American media,’ pp. 71-122. 18. Jawaharlal Nehru, 30 June 1951, preface, D.G.  Tendulkar, Life of Mahatma Gandhi, 8 Vols. Delhi 1951, vol. 1, p. 10. 19. L. Fischer, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, London 1962, p. 292. 20. Time, ‘Pinch of Salt’ 31 March 1930, p. 25. 21. Time, 5 January 1931, p. 14. 22. D. Read, The Power of News, Oxford 1992 edn, p. 201. 23. Prajabandhu, 16 March 1930, cited in J. Tewari, Sabarmati to Dandi, Delhi 1995, pp. 129-130. 24. R.J.  Moore, Liberalism and Indian Politics 1872-1922, London 1966, p. 127. 25. T. Weber, On the Salt March, New Delhi 1997, p. 333. 26. Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, pp. 88-90. 27. Kaul, ‘India as viewed by the American media’, pp. 71-122. 28. James. A.  Mills, ‘Filming Mahatma Gandhi’, cited in Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, p. 83.



29. Ibid. 30. Fischer, Gandhi, p. 354. 31. F. Williams, The Right to Know, London 1969, p. 124. 32. Lester, Entertaining Gandhi, pp. 44-46. 33. CW, Vol 48, pp. 8-10, reproduced from NYT, 14-9-1931. Emphasis added. 34. Tribune, 14 September 1931, p. 9. 35. Ibid. Emphasis added. 36. 14 September 1931, as cited in Evening Tribune, Albert Lea, Minnesota, p. 7; Los Angeles Times, p. 1. 37. See NYT, 14 September 1931. 38. 13 September 1931, NYT, p. SM2. 39. Desai in YI as cited in ToI, 23 October 1931, p. 8. Emphasis added. 40. Ibid. 41. ToI, 23 October 1931, p. 8. 42. ToI, 6 October 1931, p.2. 43. ToI, 1 October 1931, p. 3. 44. Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, pp. 123-171. 45. Ibid. 46. Reith diary, 10 April 1926, in C.  Stuart (ed.), The Reith Diaries, London, 1975. 47. Cited in Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, p. 144. 48. L. Fielden, The Natural Bent, London, 1960, p.196. 49. Fielden, Natural Bent, p. 158. Emphasis added. 50. Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, pp. 123-171. 51. Gandhi to Kaur, 21 September 1936, CW Vol 69, pp. 381-382. 52. Gandhi to Kaur, 27 September 1936, CW Vol 69, p. 406. 53. Gandhi to Kaur, 10 October 1936, CW Vol 69, pp. 443-444. 54. Gandhi to Fielden, 3 January 1937, CW Vol 70, p. 245. Emphasis added. 55. Cited in L. Fielden, Beggar My Neighbour, London 1943, p. 54. 56. Ibid. 57. Fielden, Natural Bent, p. 181. 58. Gandhi to Kaur, 4 May 1937, CW Vol 70, pp. 211-212. 59. Fielden, Natural Bent, p. 204. 60. See Chandrika Kaul, ‘ “The meek ass between two burdens”? The BBC and India during the Second World War’, in S.  Eliot and M.  Wiggam (eds.), Allied Communication to the Public during the Second World War, London 2020, Chapter 12, pp. 203-221. 61. Fielden, Natural Bent, p. 215. 62. Undated official memo, L/I/1/445, IOLR, BL, cited in Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, p. 125. 63. For an indepth analysis of Mountbatten’s Viceroyalty and the media, see Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, pp. 172-281



64. See Kaul, ‘The BBC and India during the Second World War’, pp. 203-221. 65. S. Sengupta & G. Chatterjee (eds.), Secret Congress broadcasts and storming railway tracks during Quit India movement, New Delhi 1988. 66. 28 May 1942, CW, Vol 76, pp.159-60. 67. Paul R.  Greenough, ‘Political Mobilization and the Underground Literature of the Quit India Movement, 1942-44, Modern Asian Studies, Cambridge, Vol. 17, No. 3 (1983), pp. 353-386. 68. Talbot An American Witness to India’s Partition, New Delhi 2007, p.212. 69. 4 April 1946, CW Vol 90, p. 187. Emphasis added. 70. Gandhi to Patel, 10 October 1946, CW Vol 92, p. 307. 71. For the full poem see Appendix 1 in Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, p. 255. 72. S. Amin, ‘Gandhi as Mahatma: Gorakhpur District, Eastern UP, 1921-22’ in R. Guha (ed.), Subaltern Studies III, New Delhi 1989, pp. 1-61. 73. W. L. Shirer, Gandhi: A Memoir, New York 1980, pp. 75-6. 74. Indian Listener, 22 February 1948, as cited in http://www.thehindu.com/ news/cities/Delhi/broadcastingnonviolence/article4845573.ece 75. Talbot, American Witness, p. 305. 76. See ‘Operation Seduction’: Mountbatten, the Media and Decolonisation’, in Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience, pp. 172-218. 77. CW, Vol 94, pp. 220-223. 78. See ‘Operation Seduction’, pp. 172-218. 79. These sentiments are attributed to Mountbatten. 80. cited in http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/broadcastingnonviolence/article4845573.ece 81. Ibid. 82. Ibid. 83. 12 November 1947, CW Vol 97, pp. 293-296. Please see Appendix for the full broadcast. 84. Cited in Fielden, Beggar, p. 54. Emphasis added. 85. See Chandrika Kaul, Reporting the Raj, The British Press and India, Manchester 2003 and Delhi 2017 Indian edn. 86. See Kaul, Reporting the Raj; Kaul, Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience; C. Kaul (ed.) Media and the British Empire, London, 2006 & 2013. 87. See Chandrika Kaul, ‘England and India: The Ilbert Bill, 1883. A Case Study of the Metropolitan Press’, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, New Delhi/London, Vol 30, no.4 (October–December 1993), pp. 413—436.



88. See ‘Managing the Crisis? Fleet Street, government and the Jallianwallah Bagh massacre, 1919-20’, in Kaul, Reporting the Raj, pp. 199-229. 89. Bernard S.  Cohn. Colonialism and its forms of Knowledge, Princeton 1996, p. 16. 90. See J. Nye, Soft Power, New York 2004. 91. See fuller discussion in Kaul, ‘Invisible Empire Tie’, pp. 123-171. 92. As I have argued in Reporting the Raj, and in Communications, Media and the Imperial Experience. 93. 24 October 1934, CW Vol. 65, p. 226. 94. See K.  Breckenridge, ‘Gandhi’s Progressive Disillusionment: Thumbs, Fingers, and the Rejection of Scientific Modernism in Hind Swaraj’, Public Culture, vol. 23, issue 2, 2011; P. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse, London, 1993; A. Nandy, ‘From outside the Imperium: Gandhi’s Cultural Critique of the ‘West’,’ Alternatives, vol. 7, 1981. 95. 24 October 1934, CW Vol 65, p. 225. 96. Gandhi-Chaplin interview, 22 September 1931, CW Vol 53, pp. 393-394; see also C. Chaplin, My Autobiography, London, 2003 edn, pp. 335-337. 97. Harijan, 28 January 1939, cited in Fischer, Gandhi, p. 411. 98. Fischer, Gandhi, p. 492; Gandhi to Sushila Gandhi, 2 July 1947, CW Vol 95, pp. 380-381. 99. D. Dalton, Mahatma Gandhi: Nonviolent power in Action, New York, 1993. 100. M. Bourke-White, Portrait of Myself, New York 1963, pp. 278-79. 101. See E. Tarlo, Clothing Matters, London 1996. 102. As cited in http://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/broadcastingnonviolence/article4845573.ece


Gandhi and the Muslim League: The Dawn in 1947 Gopa Sabharwal

Abstract  In 1947, as India and Pakistan came into being as independent countries, few people dominated the headlines more than Gandhi and Jinnah. The representation of Gandhi in Jinnah’s New Delhi-based newspaper Dawn provides crucial insight into how the dominant idea of a united India was confronted and critiqued. This chapter shows how, even as Jinnah emerged the victor in his quest for an Islamic nation, the challenge posed by Gandhi, forever on the move, constrained by neither party nor office and communicator par excellence, had to be continuously countered in the columns of the Dawn. Keywords  Pakistan • Muslim • Congress • Muslim League Moving away from analysing the independence of India and Pakistan from the lens of what caused Partition or who was to blame, this paper seeks to

G. Sabharwal (*) Department of Sociology, Lady Shri Ram College for Women, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_7




capture the minutiae of the time through the reading of an English-­ language newspaper in 1947, to throw some light on the nexus between newspapers, politics and the public in general and on the representation of Gandhi in the press in particular.1 Newspapers have traditionally been an underutilized and undervalued primary source to gain insights into the immediacy or context of social and political happenings but have increasingly been recognized as shaping ‘political, economic, social and cultural dynamics’.2 With time, the research using newspapers as a source material has grown as has the discourse based on this research.3 The newspaper in focus in this chapter is the Dawn, founded by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on 26 October 1941, as a weekly from New Delhi, with financial help from the Calcutta industrialist M.A.H Ispahani and the Raja of Mahmudabad under the supervision of Liaquat Ali Khan, General Secretary of the All India Muslim League (League) who served as Managing Director.4 One of Jinnah’s early biographers, Bolitho, indicated that Jinnah and the media were not natural allies. He wrote, ‘It was strange that a man who had never employed a press agent and who spurned the favours of journalists, should own, and direct the policy of a newspaper’.5 On the contrary, Jinnah’s correspondence with Ispahani and Liaquat Ali Khan on the conversion of the Dawn from a weekly to a daily shows his deep involvement in the process of first establishing the Dawn as a weekly and then its conversion into a daily. Jinnah’s wanted ‘to see the paper become a really first class English daily which will be a genuine, real and true voice of Muslim India. It is a thing which Muslim India never had and if we are able to achieve what we desire, this may give a lead to other Provinces as the reading public is now growing and is very anxious to know the news and views of Muslim India’.6 The category of ‘Muslim India’ was an ‘imagined community’ of Anderson’s description, confined to parts of Bengal, Punjab and the United Provinces, where the League exercised influence.7 The Dawn weekly had a circulation above 4000 copies in June 1942 and was distributed all over the country. The daily newspaper was expected to do much better.8 The first editor of the daily Dawn newspaper Pothan Joseph was earlier the editor of the Ispahani-owned Star of India published from Calcutta. Joseph, however, parted ways with the Dawn in 1945 and was replaced by Altaf Hussain, who remained editor until 1965. Hussain reminisced that Jinnah ‘never issued any directive … In fact, he told me to … write fearlessly what I thought—“no matter even if Qaid-i-Azam was offended thereby”’.9



Before moving further, it may be useful to briefly contextualize the Dawn within the Indian media landscape. Newspapers in India emerged first in Calcutta in 1780 followed by Madras and Bombay and were initially confined to the British. Early newspapers seemed driven by personal agendas of ex-employees of the East India Company focused on attacking people and practices in the Company. Some newspapers were also published under the patronage of the Government. Newspapers that incurred the wrath of the Company faced fines and deportation of owners or editors while those that pledged loyalty were helped with concessions in postal rates and even machinery.10 The Company’s need to control information about its doings reaching England more than Indian readers led to the introduction of censorship, first in Madras (1795), followed by Calcutta (1799). Press regulations underwent revision and expansion through the nineteenth century with some Governor Generals like John Adam and Wellesley enacting harsh regulations with others being somewhat lenient. Over the next century, the various press Acts prescribed the need to have a licence, to publish the details of proprietors, editors, printers and place of publication in each paper or pamphlet and imposition of fines, imprisonment on those who printed information deemed sensitive to the Company and the requirement of a security deposit which could be forfeited in the event of any misdemeanour. The emergence of newspapers in Indian languages in 1816 was partly responsible for the stringent Adam regulations in 1823, since the deportation rule didn’t apply to Indians.11 Natarajan speculates that such restrictions may have resulted in Indian-language papers focusing on social issues and reforms.12 Reformist newspapers were opposed by those professing orthodoxy, leading to heated debates. Newspapers in different parts of the country sometimes articulated similar views giving a campaign an all-India character as happened with the issue of raising the age of marriage.13 Notwithstanding the regulations and financial costs of sustaining newspapers with small circulation figures, new publications continued to emerge (while others ceased publication) and India witnessed the emergence of a print-culture, a public discourse, the evolving of a standardized usage in regional languages and the emergence of ‘imagined communities’.14 Communities, based on all of the ethnic markers of region, language, religion, caste alone or in combination, came to be articulated in the press as did competing views such as those against caste. The resultant imaginaries jostled for recognition, acceptance and, if possible, dominance at different levels of Indian society—local, regional and national.



Following the rebellion of 1857, the Governance of India moved from the East India Company to the Crown. Despite there being no proof of press involvement in the uprising, an Act was introduced to regulate the establishment of printing presses and the circulation of books. The distrust of the Indian-language press and its power to misrepresent the Government in the minds of an ignorant populace led to the passing of the Vernacular Press Act of 1878, which for the first time segregated the English-language press from that in Indian languages.15 It was repealed in 1882 following a change of Government in Britain and Viceroy in India.16 Almost simultaneously arose another legislation that divided the press not only in India but also in Britain. This was the Ilbert Bill seeking to modify the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code to allow Indian members of the Civil Service at the district level to have legal jurisdiction on British persons in India.17 The publication of the Bill in 1883 led to a violent reaction among the British community in India and heated debates in the press in Britain.18 The Bill was finally watered down to maintain a British majority in all juries. The protests by the British in India, however, brought home to the Indian public the privileged position of the British in India and their reluctance towards any kind of equality with native Indians and the need for an organized response to this and similar issues. Almost ironically, however, some members of the European community came together with various Indian organizations to form the Indian National Congress in 1885, as an all-India organization. Many of the members were also editors or owners of leading newspapers, thus linking press and politics. The first decades of the twentieth century saw a rise in political articulation and activity and a widening gap between the British and the Indians. The partition of Bengal and the deportation of Lajpat Rai and Tilak for seditious writing, a rise in activities termed extremist and the division of the Congress between the extremists and the moderates all resulted in an increasingly politicised press.19 Fresh attempts to control the press through repressive legislations in 1908 and 1910 led to the closure of many newspapers due to forfeiture of security.20 By 1914, to quote Israel, ‘virtually all of the major themes that reflected the intermingling of press and political history in India were evident’.21 Into this scenario Gandhi returned to India in 1915—a social and political outsider in a sense.22 Among the welcome functions in Bombay was one by the Gujarati community where the main address was by M.A. Jinnah, perhaps, says Guha, the most influential Gujarati at the time.23 Indian politics entered the phase of national-level civil disobedience movements and



protests and also witnessed a generational change. While this is not the place to discuss the various events that unfolded, it will suffice to say that various legislations and actions like the Jallianwala massacre eroded trust between the Indian public and the British administrators, the latter viewing every utterance or activity as a threat. Gandhi, ever careful of his message, in the words of Natarajan, ‘marked his entry into active politics’ with acquiring two publications one each in English and Gujarati.24 He also permitted free reproduction of his articles in other newspapers, a provision which was freely utilised.25 The English-language press, which is the focus of the current discussion, played the role of the all-India media. The point has been made that in ‘significant measure, the ideal of an All-India nation state that emerged out of the Indian nationalist struggle was imagined in English print’.26 In a multilingual country, English was ‘essential for any national role and the establishment or control of an English-language paper often signalled a politician’s desire to move on to the All-India stage’ and communicate across regions.27 The success of the English-language newspaper was also the result of other technical and economic factors that had emerged such as the availability of telegraph signals only in the Roman script and the preference of advertisers and a growing reading public.28 There emerged a distinction between the Anglo-Indian Press and English papers owned by Indians and edited by either Indian or European editors. English-language papers in each region developed reputations and readership beyond their immediate hinterland. In some parts of the country, there were also Indian-language papers that ‘functioned as associates’ of the Indian-­ owned English newspapers.29 Another round of Press Ordinances coinciding with the launch of the civil disobedience movement and the salt march in 1930 resulted in newspapers being asked to deposit securities. The enactment of the Government of India Act of 1935 was followed by elections based on communal representation. Congress refused to coordinate with the Muslim League to form a Government in any province. The Muslim League also passed in 1940 what came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution, though the word Pakistan was not used in it.30 The Congress was steadily losing its imagined role as the sole voice of all India and Indians. The press and politics were further suppressed due to the world war to which India and Indians were committed by the Viceroy without consultation. Control was exercised on news that could be published and on newsprint.



Into this landscape of a politicized and influential English press which ‘identified … and also warred with each other’, the Dawn was launched, in 1941 to further its cause.31 The Muslim League also owned an Urdu weekly Manshoor which they had tried unsuccessfully to convert into a daily newspaper.32 By 1947 the Dawn had established itself as a paper to be reckoned with in New Delhi, so much so that ‘carrying it was a statement in itself and it was used, especially by students and young people, to announce to others that they supported the demand for Pakistan’.33 The paper published news on all kinds of activities but never lost focus in making a case for Pakistan. The main message simply put was that India comprised two autonomous independent nations which could not co-exist; Muslims in India could only get a raw deal at the hands of the untrustworthy Congress party. How then did this newspaper that led to what could only be described as a successful campaign for the creation of the nation state of Pakistan report Gandhi in this most crucial year? It could well have chosen to ignore Gandhi for he did not hold any official position within the Congress or in the Interim Government and Gandhi was clearly not someone the League trusted. Despite Gandhi’s public aura, it isn’t as though every newspaper in India covered all of his activities on a daily basis. Each paper picked aspects of news that fitted in with their general editorial policy, political leaning or reader interest in the region of circulation. The Dawn was no different in this regard. In terms of content, the pieces in the Dawn, like in other English newspapers, were generally from agency sources—the main ones being the Reuter-owned Associated Press of India (API) and occasionally the Globe from London. In the Dawn, in addition some pieces are attributed to unnamed ‘Dawn’ special representatives, the Orient Press of India and the news agency Associated Press of America (APA) which had entered India in the war years.34 A comparison of papers reporting the same news reveals almost identical reportage with the news agency output edited for length and paragraphs shuffled to suit the needs of each newspaper. Sometimes the only difference between the same item in one paper and the next is the reference to Gandhi as Mr Gandhi, Mahatma Gandhi or Gandhiji. Headlines of course often reflected the slant the paper wanted to give to a story. The relationship between Gandhi and the Dawn is complex and layered and draws directly on the positioning of both Jinnah and Gandhi in the public domain and their interpersonal relationship. As Long says, it was the strategy of the Dawn to ‘elevate Jinnah to the same stature as Gandhi’



and firmly establish him as the Quaid-i-Azam or the ‘Great Leader’.35 Just as ‘Congressites paid pilgrimage to Gandhi in his ashram so too Dawn recorded all of the visits made to Jinnah by figures great and small’.36 By 1947, Gandhi had a sizeable public reputation in India and abroad and was often covered by foreign media. Jinnah as the permanent president of the Muslim League had also gained tremendous clout in the previous decade as the sole spokesman for the Muslim community. Gandhi of course kept the press busy by being on the move all the time and also being very vocal in both speech and writing. Gandhi was therefore covered in many sections of the Dawn—news columns, editorials, letters to the editor or cartoons. What he didn’t get was photographic or visual coverage, which was reserved largely for images of Jinnah. And, while the Dawn referred to Jinnah as Qaed-e-Azam, it addressed Gandhi only as Mr. Gandhi, reserving the appellation Mahatma for when it wanted to pass comment on connotations of the word ‘mahatma’. Gandhi made his entry in the Dawn on New Year’s day 1947, both in a news item and in a cartoon.37 The cartoon, which apparently offended Nehru, depicted a collapsed figure of the Congress on the floor represented it seems by Patel.38 The Dawn cartoonist in 1947 was Ajmal Husain, none other than the 21-year-old son of the editor Altaf Husain. Ajmal had just graduated from Scottish Church College in Calcutta and was headed studying documentary films when Liaquat Ali Khan called him to Delhi and asked him to join the Dawn as cartoonist.39 He apparently took a few weeks training in composition and perspective of cartooning and learnt the rest on the job.40 Gandhi appeared in many more unflattering cartoons through the year including twice more in January itself. In the first quarter of 1947 coverage on Gandhi focused largely on his village to village walking tour in Noakhali district, East Bengal, following riots in October 1946.41 Gandhi reached this Muslim League-governed province in November to reiterate his message of non-violence among both the Hindu victims and Muslim perpetrators. Dawn portrayed Gandhi not as a messiah of peace but as someone playing politics. A report on 3 January echoed the mistrust between the League and Gandhi with the charge that Gandhi’s day-to-day activities were occupied with something other than the ‘Mission of Peace and Love’, the reference being to him having advised Assam and the Sikhs on the Grouping Plan in the Constituent Assembly.42 The paper accused Gandhi of ‘carrying on antiPakistan propaganda in the name of peace and love’ as part of the



pre-­arranged plan to hold Noakhali in prominence to overshadow Bihar where a reverse massacre had occurred in November 1946.43 The tour was portrayed as a failure and the paper carried statements from the Premier of Bengal and others challenging Gandhi to instead visit Bihar and see for himself the brutality done by Hindus to Muslims. An editorial piece titled ‘Tour-A Flop’ captured some of these sentiments.44 It contended that Gandhi had lost much of his glamour, quoting his own words at a prayer meeting that with the numbers dwindling, one day he would be left without anyone to listen to him at all. The editorial responded: we do not know why Hindus should show apathy for prayer meetings … conducted by no less a man than Mr. Gandhi himself whose image decorates many Hindu Temples … What does, then, this apathy … flow from? … it arises from the dictum that sweet words butter no parsnip. They are getting not merely the butter but also bread with it free of cost from the Bengal League Ministry … Muslims attending the prayer left the meeting … they could not remain in a prayer meeting where un-Islamic songs are sung. Mr. Gandhi should not feel sore about it. It does not mean any disrespect to Ram. Besides this, Mr. Gandhi’s prayer meetings are as much intended for propaganda purposes calculated to jeopardize Muslim interests. We are glad that the unsophisticated Muslim rural folk have now fully understood Mr. Gandhi’s game in their village.45

This passage captures many of the themes, tensions and anxieties that prevailed at the time from a Muslim League perspective. Gandhi conducting a mass contact programme in the heart of Muslim League-ruled Bengal needed to be countered. The first message that needed to be put out was that Gandhi was drawing no audience, either Hindu or Muslim, because the public was content with the government. Designating the tour a ‘flop’ right at the start set the tone on how the paper would portray it. This being a state with a League Ministry, some comment on League governance was in order and the mouthpiece newspaper was the ideal medium to put out the message that the Provincial government cared for the welfare of both Hindus and Muslims. The Muslim boycott of the meetings, not because they objected to the recitation of the Quran but to the recitation of Hindu prayers, was consistent with the League message of Hindus and Muslims being two disparate nations. Such reportage illustrated ordinary Muslim village folk demonstrating this reality of incompatible religious worlds. As regards the Hindus



not turning up, the explanation was either that most had lost their homes and hadn’t returned for fear of more violence despite Gandhi or they had no time for Gandhi. More telling is the comment on what the Dawn claimed was the real purpose of Gandhi’s meetings. Gandhi in the heart of Bengal had the ability to ‘jeopardize Muslim interests’ or carry on ‘anti-Pakistan propaganda’ because of his connect with the masses and the clarity of his message. Gandhi was literally walking the talk on the possibility of Hindu-Muslim unity and co-existence and, if possible, a change of heart. He was doing so in territory the League considered part of a potential though undefined, Pakistan, and he was preaching to the weakest link in the League political organization, namely, the populace at the base.46 The League’s nervousness was justified, since Pakistan was still an idea and someone like Gandhi staying on the ground and working to mend the hatred between the two communities could dilute the message of the League that Hindus and Muslims were two nations that couldn’t coexist. The country was watching to see if Gandhi would succeed. The barrage of criticism against Gandhi carried well into February with headlines declaring ‘Remove Gandhi from Noakhali; Demonstrations in Calcutta’ and ‘Bihar Eclipses Noakhali, But I Wont Go—Gandhi’; ‘Gandhi’s Presence in Noakhali Resented’ and ‘Gandhi: Bengal Stay Wholly Meaningless’.47 The Premier of Bengal, H.S. Suhrawardy of the Muslim League party, termed the Bihar events the ‘great Bihar Massacre’ to counter the popular usage ‘great Calcutta Killings’ to describe the Calcutta riots of August 1946.48 The thrust of the campaign was to pressurise Gandhi to go to Bihar or else it seemed that he cared only about Hindu suffering. In the midst of this, bigger events stole the main headlines, with the announcement in London on 20 February, of British intent to leave India by June 1948. With the future uncertain, it became more important now for all actors and parties to consolidate and ensure that they were well placed when the end game began. The Dawn carried a cartoon of Gandhi studying the British statement with a magnifying glass.49 It also reported Gandhi sending a ‘top Secret’ communication to Nehru, with documents being carried back and forth by an emissary who travelled by air. In early March Gandhi finally decided to go to Bihar which was a Congress-ruled Province. The first of the headlines read, ‘I Have Come To Shed Tears For Bihar’.50 The story said that the ‘burnt, charred, and devastated houses through which he passed this morning must have



convinced him that his philosophy of non-violence was buried fathoms deep’.51 This discrediting of Gandhian non-violence, as unacceptable to both Hindus (Bihar) and Muslims (Noakhali), was consistent with the message of mistrust between the communities and the need for separate homelands. The Dawn Patna correspondent also alleged that Gandhi’s presence was an embarrassment to the Congress Government which had withheld information of the actual extent of the massacre from him. The writer also disapproved of Gandhi’s host in Patna, Dr Mahmud’s conduct in calling him Mahatma, claiming that it was ‘very much resented’.52 The paper covered Gandhi in Bihar in more detail than it had at Noakhali. Every meeting, every visit to affected villages, every comment was reported. Headlines read, ‘Gandhi Sees Ghastly Sites in Bihar’ and the report described Gandhi telling his audience that he had seen such horrible sights and his heart was so full that he might burst into tears.53 Gandhi met the public, members of the Bihar Government as well as from the League. He stayed longer than he intended to and by mid-March the headlines changed to ‘Light Dawns on Mr. Gandhi: Convinced of Atrocities on Muslims of Bihar’.54 The Dawn Patna correspondent wrote that Gandhi was convinced that the report of the Bihar Provincial Muslim League ‘was not only not exaggerated but did not contain even all the facts’.55 The report reiterated Gandhi’s pain at realizing that the Bihar Congress Ministry ‘deliberately remained out of touch from him’ and gave him an ‘absolutely wrong impression of the things’ in which event, he could have ‘rendered better service to people’.56 It is worth noting that while in Bengal the paper depicted the League Government as being in control and underplayed the violence and destruction, in Bihar, the Congress Government were implicated in the riots. Moreover, while Gandhi was portrayed in Bengal as without an audience, in Bihar, the paper seemed to have no problem with Muslim sufferers turning out in their thousands to meet Gandhi and tell him their woes. But one fear remained. The paper campaigned for action against Congressmen involved in the riot and the appointment of Muslim League members on the Rehabilitation Committees. It feared that otherwise it may provide an opportunity ‘at Muslim mass contact through the back door method’.57 No matter what the paper said there was a consistent lurking fear that Gandhi’s charisma may lure Muslims to the nationalist side and away from the League. This anxiety was indicative of the fact that despite the Muslim League and the Dawn wanting to portray the Indian Muslim community as a homogenous group speaking and thinking in one



voice, the reality was far from this truth. The community was as heterogeneous and regionally disparate as any other group in India and this was visible in their responses to various situations. Also there were many who were not committed to the League ideology and these fence sitters could easily be swayed by Gandhi as was evident by the numbers who came out to greet him wherever he went. Gandhi was quoted admonishing Hindus for their lack of repentance and the newspaper that was sceptical of his motives endorsed his views by putting some parts in italics such as Gandhi ‘referred to the atrocities that had been committed by Hindus of Bihar, before which the happenings in Noakhali or Tipperah paled into insignificance’.58 To bolster its argument that the Hindus in Bihar were unrepentant and to embarrass Gandhi, the paper ran a piece titled, ‘Gandhi’s Call for Bihar Relief Fetches Rs. 25’.59 The story alleged that compared to Muslims in Noakhali, Hindus in Bihar were not contributing to the relief effort which was a sign of their unrepentance. Gandhi had apparently announced the opening of the Bihar Relief Fund and asked his audience to contribute liberally. ‘Audience kept quiet and the response was nil. Then his private secretary brought out two rings and wanted to auction them … in spite of his best efforts they failed to fetch more than Rs, 25’.60 Gandhi apparently said this response was discouraging whereas similar appeals in Noakhali had raised three lakhs of rupees. The item ended saying, ‘Karamchand Gandhi’ then quietly left the meeting’.61 A few days later, a rejoinder from Gandhi’s Bengali translator was published in the Letters to Editor column.62 Bose actually contradicted two news items. On the ring issue he clarified that the rings had been presented a day before the announcement of the Bihar Relief Fund but were meant for the Harijan Fund. No auction was actually made and only their approximate value was announced when Gandhi referred to his intention of auctioning them at a later date. Bose also clarified that no collections were made from the local community during the Noakhali tour and most of the three lakhs gathered for relief came from outside the state. The other item Bose refuted was an item published on 11 March under the misleading headline that proclaimed, ‘What Hindus Did Was ‘Purely from a Sense of Duty’.63 Bose clarified, as had the news item, that Gandhi was warned via telegram against condemning the Hindus in Bihar ‘for what they had done was purely from a sense of duty’. Bose referred to the printed piece to clarify that Gandhi had strongly condemned the opinion



saying he ‘had no hesitation in saying that the writer did no good to India or to Hindustan by issuing the warning’.64 The arrival of Mountbatten in India at the end of March changed the focus to the forthcoming independence. Mountbatten’s invitation to Jinnah and Gandhi for talks resulted in both men heading to Delhi from Bombay and Patna respectively—the first time that they were going to be in the city together that year. The Dawn reported in detail the time that each of them spent in talks with Mountbatten so as to establish their equivalence. Hardly had the talks in Delhi begun (1 April), when Dawn reported that Gandhi was not allowed to include any recitations from the Quran in his prayer meeting. The paper reported that ‘While the verses from the Quran Sharif were being recited … an excited Hindu youth took exception to such recital, according to an “authorized version” of Mr. Gandhi’s prayer speech’.65 The authorized version of the prayer speech was used obviously to authenticate the source of the story and attribute it to Gandhi’s own record keepers. As discussed earlier, Gandhi’s meetings had seen disruptions in Noakhali too, but this time, Dawn played up this matter for a few days running. An editorial titled ‘Quran and Mr Gandhi’ said: For three days in succession the sacred name of the Quran has been profanely bandied about in the idol-house known as the Balmiki temple … Muslims have been watching this intolerable controversy over the Word of God, to … which … a section of Hindus has been objecting … Mr. Gandhi … has laid the Holy Book of Islam open to this affront. Muslims have begged Mr. Gandhi … to desist from having verses from the Quran recited at his mass meetings under the garb of “prayer”. These meetings are … inevitably Hindu in character … Indeed, an even more unworthy motive has been discernible … namely to bring the Quran down to equality with idolatrous forms of prayer.66

Multiple messages were being conveyed here. The message of Hindu intolerance to Islamic prayers and by association to Muslims which would be repeated in other publications and travel far. Second, the contradictory Gandhi who took no note of peaceful Muslim protest to the recitation of Hindu prayers in Noakhali, but relented here because Hindu objectors threatened violence. Third, only Muslims could decide who could recite a prayer from their holy book. Quoting Gandhi as saying: ‘My non-violence dictates that even if a boy objects to my holding prayer meeting I will



refrain from doing so’ the paper remarked, ‘Strange indeed is this Gandhian non-violence which covers such a multitude of contrarinesses! But we forget that while Muslims objectors … never threatened him with violence, the Hindu objectors … did’.67 The editorial ends with hope the Mr. Gandhi will not disregard their wise counsel to stop recitations from the Quran. The resumption of Islamic prayers after Gandhi dismissed objections to their recitation led to another editorial, titled ‘This “Prayer” Business’. The paper said it had received a sheaf of letters from Muslim readers, one of which they printed. The paper justified its editorial saying it needed to address this issue since the letter represented a section which threatened some form of “direct action” to persuade Mr. Gandhi to abandon taking liberties with the Quran.68 Taking a leaf out of Gandhi’s book, the editorial preached non-violence. It said, ‘whatever may be the depth of feelings aroused by Mr. Gandhi’s practice, Muslims must on no account … contemplate any course of action similar to that suggested’ by the letter writer.69 It challenged Gandhi: ‘If he really possesses the greatness that is claimed for him or the sincerity that he himself claims’ he should respect Muslim sentiments. If not ‘he will stand convicted of political egoism’.70 Gandhi was back in the news a few days later, this time for leaking to the press his telegrams to Bengal Premier Suhrawardy. On 11 April, the Dawn ran a story titled ‘Gandhi’s Telegrams on Noakhali Responsible for Fresh Troubles in Calcutta-Suhrawardy’.71 They followed it up with an Editorial titled ‘Peacemaker or Inciter?’.72 Taking the position that Gandhi’s correspondence with the Bengal Premier should have been confidential, the Dawn accused him of taking ‘advantage of the license which he alone enjoys to say anything he likes in public’.73 Suhrawardy predictably responded that the situation in Noakhali was nowhere as bad as portrayed by Gandhi.74 This issue continued to feature for a few days. Gandhi declared his work in Delhi over and returned to Patna to resume his peace efforts. After he left, news was released, on 15 April, of a joint peace appeal by both Gandhi and Jinnah, deploring ‘the recent acts of lawlessness and violence that have brought the utmost disgrace on the fair name of India’ and denouncing ‘for all time the use of force to achieve political ends’ and calling upon all communities to refrain from violence and disorder.75 It was at the ‘Viceroy’s initiative and at his specific request’ that the two leaders had signed the declaration and authorized its publication.76 Gandhi had signed the appeal a few days prior while Jinnah signed it the day it was released to the press. The news was on the front page next



morning. It took a day longer for a pictorial copy of the appeal to be published. The short typed statement had the signature of Jinnah in English or the Roman script while Gandhi had chosen to sign first in Hindi or Devanagari script, then Urdu and below that he signed, ‘i.e. M.K. Gandhi in the Roman script’.77 The Dawn reprinted the image on 24 April on its editorial page with the title ‘Lest You Forget’.78 It made no comment on Gandhi sending out a message to both communities by signing in Urdu and Devanagari. Instead, the Dawn editorial titled ‘The Appeal’ played up the symbolism of Jinnah being invited to sign the appeal alongside Gandhi. It was seen by the paper as a high point for Jinnah and his mission. It even slipped up in using Gandhi’s appellation ‘Mahatma’ when referring to him. The editorial noted: the very fact of the Viceroy having chosen the Qaed-e-Azam and Mr. Gandhi for the purpose of an appeal … is tantamount to a recognition that two voices and not one must speak in this context … Were India a united country … there would have been no need for a “joint appeal” … Again and again it has been impliedly recognized that the Muslims and the Hindus are two separate peoples and that the Muslim League represents the first and the Congress the second.79

The peace appeal was widely publicized, printed handbills were air-­ dropped over cities in Bengal and Punjab; publicity vans broadcast the appeal and it was shown in cinema halls. Various State legislatures endorsed the appeal and it stayed in the news for over a month.80 Was this the start of a new equation between the newspaper and Gandhi now that Jinnah had achieved equal status? The truce was broken just past the two-week mark in early May. Gandhi had returned to Delhi and almost immediately was quoted, during his prayer meeting, as having cast doubt on the wisdom of issuing the appeal. Referring to the ongoing violence in the frontier Province, the Punjab and other places, Gandhi had said ‘The purpose of the appeal seemed to have been entirely defeated in practice … it was not open to Jinnah Sahib to plead that his followers did not listen to his appeal’.81 This sense of betrayal carried into the editorial one day later when Gandhi was apparently nominated yet again for the Nobel Peace prize. The nomination seemed to put Gandhi onto a pedestal and clearly the paper felt obliged to take some of the sheen off this seeming honour. The editorial titled ‘Said Regretfully’ remarked, ‘Had there been a Nobel



Talkers Prize the Mahatma would have won it long ago. It is a paradox that one whose “days of silence” are world famous should at the same time be the world’s most talkative man’. It also criticized Gandhi’s statement on the inability of Jinnah to get his followers to keep peace. Shoring up Jinnah’s stellar qualities it added, ‘it is a trifle too much, even for Mr. Gandhi, to go on criticising … the Qaed-e-Azam who suffers from the handicaps of dignity and propriety and … unable to answer back every spiteful charge … Mr. Gandhi knows his own advantage; and never had another man keener sense of exploitation of opportunity. And Mr. Gandhi oftener than not has eyes on audiences beyond the seas’.82 The comparison of the contrasting personalities of the two men is something that has been much written about. As Wolpert said, ‘they recognised one another as “natural enemies,” rivals for national power, popularity, and charismatic control of their audiences’.83 The Dawn’s comments highlight their distinct personality. Gandhi and Jinnah came face to face on 6 May, one on one for nearly three hours at Jinnah’s home—the result of a chance encounter at the Viceroy’s House a few days earlier, where Gandhi suggested they meet. The meeting lasted longer than anyone expected. Gandhi even missed his prayer hour. They did not address the press for whom Jinnah released a statement saying they had discussed two matters which were: the question of division of India into Pakistan and Hindustan … Mr. Gandhi does not accept the principle of division … in my opinion not only Pakistan is inevitable but this is the only practical solution of India’s political problem. The second matter … was a letter which we both have signed jointly appealing to the people to maintain peace and we both have come to the conclusion that we must do our best in our respective spheres to see that that appeal of ours is carried out and we will make every effort for this purpose.84

The Dawn reproduced the entire statement capitalized and in bold script. It was also probably the first time in the year that Gandhi had his photograph published in the paper, even though only a small passport-­ sized one. Gandhi referred to this meeting the next day during his post-­ prayer speech, alluding to the fact that some people did not approve of his meeting Jinnah but that ‘he believed such personal discussions would lead to mutual understanding and appreciation of their respective points of view. He would therefore call on Mr. Jinnah not once but as many times



as he could’.85 He also clarified his opposition to a division of India though ‘it appeared to him that the Congress leaders had seemed to have almost decided on the partition of the country as well as of the provinces of the Punjab and Bengal’.86 Prophetic words indeed. In a month’s time, even as the Gandhi-Jinnah peace message was still being broadcast and distributed widely, the partition plan was accepted by both the Congress and the Muslim League. The violence never quite subsided. Gandhi and Jinnah did not meet again one on one. As Dawn was celebrating the creation of Pakistan in the busy weeks preceding Independence and Partition Gandhi astounded everyone by declaring on 8 August in Lahore, that he would spend the rest of his days in Pakistan—either in East or West Bengal or in West Punjab or in the North West Frontier Province. This flummoxed the League and resulted in yet another editorial titled ‘A Quixotic Decision’: Strange are Mr. Gandhi’s ways. These are beyond the comprehension of the average normal man … Is it not strange that the man who has bitterly opposed the creation of Pakistan for ten years with the frenzy of a crusader, should prefer to live the rest of his life in the benighted Dominion of his haunted imagination? … Not that this great Hindu leader is unwelcome in Pakistan. What more, he will, we feel sure, be treated with the Islamic code of hospitality and courtesy … But Mr. Gandhi ought to know that … he owes certain obligations to his host, he must comport himself with decency and not abuse the hospitality by playing the role of meddlesome busybody or interloper. Unfortunately, on his own showing, Mr. Gandhi wants to settle in Pakistan not with the object of starting an ashram to indulge in his favourite pastime of seeking light, but for the purpose of putting his heart into (some) panicky Hindus in the Dominion.87

This declaration was not part of the script of partition and the new nation of Pakistan. Was it a calculated political move or was it wishful thinking on Gandhi’s part? Gandhi in trying to make sense of partition had gone on record to say that both countries could surely undo the division at a later date—a theme repeated in many of the nationalist papers in the days leading up to partition. For reunification to happen people must live in harmony and mutual trust. Gandhi, deeply disturbed by the extent of violence unleashed in various parts of the country over the past few months, still hoped to bring about sanity, mutual respect and peaceful co-­ existence among Hindus and Muslims. He had changed hearts in Noakhali



and Bihar and probably thought he could safeguard the minorities in Pakistan and India. These were also weeks when no one on either side of the divide had any anticipation of the bloodshed to follow nor of a national boundary that could not quite be crossed at will. Events moved at a bewildering pace in the next few weeks even for Gandhi. I will end with one last juxtaposition of Jinnah and Gandhi. This time, reference to Gandhi in absentia, helping the newly established Pakistan Constituent Assembly pass one of their first resolutions to the effect that Jinnah would be addressed as Qaed-e-Azam in all official acts, documents, correspondence and so on. The members of the Opposition objected to this decision on grounds that conferment of titles was against socialist principles. The Dawn editorial defending the resolution, accused the Opposition of not appreciating the sentiment of the decision. It said the appellation was more a term of endearment than a title and Jinnah had been known by it for nearly ten years. ‘If Mr. Gandhi could be called Mahatma Gandhi, why should exceptions be made in the case of Mr. Jinnah?’ it said quoting JN Mandal, temporary Chairman of the Constituent Assembly.88 The Dawn moved with Jinnah to Karachi but Jinnah’s hopes of having the paper publish from both Delhi and Karachi were soon dashed, when the Delhi office of the Dawn was burnt down in September. The masthead, however, continued to declare the dual status of the paper for a month or so after the paper had no presence in Delhi but the Dawn ultimately became a Pakistani newspaper. In the next few months, the reality of the complete separation that partition meant hit home to both sides. Both governments were caught unawares and were left coping with refugee rehabilitation and also fought their first war. The media discourse that came to define how both countries reported each other came to be established as these events unfolded. Its main features include an obsession with the other, a focus on establishing difference rather than similarity and not missing the chance to score points.

Notes 1. Ayesha Jayal, ‘Secularists, Subalterns and the Stigma of “Communalism”: Partition Historiography Revisited’. Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 30, No. 3 (July 1996), p. 681–689. 2. Chandrika Kaul, (ed) Media and the British Empire (London 2006), p. 1.



3. For example, see Milton Israel, Communications and Power: Propaganda and the Press in the Indian National Struggle, 1920–1947 (Cambridge 1994); Uma Das Gupta ‘The Indian Press 1870–1880: A Small World of Journalism’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 11, No. 2 (1977), p. 213–235. 4. Roger D.  Long, ‘Dawn and the Creation of Pakistan’, 2009. Media History, 15:4, p. 407–421. Long records that the earlier title page used to carry the statement ‘Under the Supervision of Nawabzada Liaquat Ali Khan, Hony. Secy. All-India Muslim League’, p. 408. 5. Hector Bolitho, Jinnah Creator of Pakistan (London 1956), pp. 153. 6. Z.H.  Zaidi (ed), M.A.Jinnah—Ispahani Correspondence 1936–1948 (Karachi 1976), pp. 305. 7. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London, 1983). 8. Roger D. Long (ed) ‘Dear Mr Jinnah’ Selected Correspondence and Speeches of Liaquat Ali Khan, 1937–1947 (Karachi 2004). In calculations for newsprint, Liaqat Ali Khan was preparing for a daily circulation of 6000 copies a day. 9. Altaf Husain, ‘Quaid-i-Azam: As I Knew Him’, Pakistan Horizon, Vol. 61, No. 1/2 (January–April 2008), p. 181–194. 10. See Margarita Barns, The Indian Press (London 1940); Milton Israel, Communications and Power 1994; Julie F.  Codell, ‘The NineteenthCentury Press in India’, Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Summer, 2004), p. 106–123; Nadig Krishna Murthy, Indian Journalism (Mysore 1966); J. Natarajan, History of Indian Journalism (Delhi 1955). 11. S. Natarajan, A History of the Press in India (Bombay 1962), p. 27. 12. J. Natarajan, 1955, p. 29. 13. See Milton Israel, 1994, p. 8. 14. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (1983). 15. It allowed the Government to search premises of any press and take other action without going to court. S. Natarajan, 1962:94. 16. J. Natarajan, 1955, p. 103. 17. Ibid., p. 115–117. 18. Chandrika Kaul, Éngland and India: The Ilbert Bill, 1883: A case study of the metropolitan press’, The Indian Economic and Social History Review, 30,4 (1993), SAGE New Delhi. 19. S. Natarajan, 1962, p. 152. 20. Ibid., p. 171. 21. Ibid., p. 9. 22. Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi The years that changed the world (Delhi 2018), p. 5. 23. Ibid., p. 12. 24. S. Natarajan, 1962, p. 190. 25. Ibid., p. 202.



26. Milton Israel, 1994. 27. Ibid., p. 21. 28. A.D. Mani, ‘The Indian Press Today’, Far Eastern Survey, Vol. 21, No. 11 (2 July, 1952), pp. 109–113. 29. S. Natarajan, 1962, p. 190. 30. Guha, 2018, p. 601. 31. Milton Israel, 1994, p. 23. 32. Long, 2009, p. 420. 33. Ibid., p. 407. 34. S. Natarajan, 1962, p. 286. 35. Ibid., p. 413. 36. Ibid., p. 414. 37. Dawn, 1 January, p. 4. Henceforth, all references to the Dawn newspaper are for the year 1947. 38. Ritu Gairola Khanduri, Caricaturing Culture in India: Cartoons and History in the Modern World (Cambridge 2014), p. 105. 39. Fayza Haq, ‘Ajmal Husain: A Blend of Journalism and Art’, in The Daily Star, 2 January, 2005. 40. Marjorie Hasain, ‘The Life and Times of Ajmal Husain’, News Line, 27 April, 2015. 41. Sucheta Mahajan, ‘Social Pressures Towards Partition: Noakhali Riots of 1946’, Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Vol. 48 (1987), pp. 571–578. 42. Dawn, 3 January, p. 6, col. 1–2. 43. Ibid. 44. Dawn, 10 January, p. 4. 45. Ibid. 46. Ayesha Jayal, ‘Inheriting the Raj: Jinnah and the Governor-Generalship Issue’, Modern Asian Studies, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1985), p. 31. 47. Dawn, 7 February; Dawn, 14 February; Dawn, 18 February. 48. Dawn, 18 February, p. 4, Editorial. 49. Dawn, 23 February, p. 4. 50. Dawn, 7 March, p. 5, col. 3. 51. Ibid. 52. Ibid. 53. Dawn, 23 March. 54. Dawn, 15 March, p. 7, col. 5–6. 55. Ibid. 56. Ibid. 57. Ibid. 58. Dawn, 3 March, p. 7, col. 4. 59. Dawn, 11 March, p. 6, col. 3.



60. Ibid. 61. Ibid. 62. Dawn, 25 March, p. 4, col. 4. 63. Ibid. 64. Dawn, 11 March, p. 6, col. 4. 65. Dawn, 2 April, p. 8, col. 2. 66. Dawn, 5 April, p. 4, col. 1–2. 67. Ibid. 68. Dawn, 6 April, p. 4. 69. Ibid. 70. Ibid. 71. Dawn, 11 April, p. 8, col. 2. 72. Dawn, 12 April. 73. Ibid. 74. Dawn, 13 April, p. 1, col. 5. 75. Dawn, 16 April, p. 1, col. 3. 76. Ibid. 77. Dawn, 17 April, p. 4, col. 5–6. 78. Dawn, 24 April, p. 4, col. 5–6. 79. Dawn, 17 April, p. 4, col. 1–2. 80. Dawn, 18 April, p. 1, col. 4. 81. Dawn, 2 May, p. 8, col. 1. 82. Dawn, 4 May, p. 4. 83. Wolpert 1984, p. 38. 84. Dawn, 7 May, p. 1. 85. Dawn, 8 May, p. 8, col. 2. 86. Ibid. 87. Dawn, 9 August, p. 2, col. 1–2. 88. Dawn, 14 August, p. 2, col. 1–2.


Gandhi in August 1947: Self-Fashioning, Print Culture and the Republic of Letters Anjana Sharma

Abstract  This chapter examines how the Gandhi iconography is first constructed and then deployed among the largely urban readers of English-­ language newspapers in India during August 1947 by two mainstream newspapers: Hindustan Times and the Statesman. The daily reportage on Gandhi attempted to keep his towering persona and revolutionary ideology alive for an often unheeding public that seemed to ignore his lifelong message of peace derived from a richly syncretic culture. The rapidly unfolding events on the eve of independence and after reflected a time out of joint in which even the Mahatma could be sometimes traduced and disrespected. Keywords  Print culture • Representation • Public sphere As the world discovered its inter-connections more than ever with a global coronavirus pandemic that cuts a deadly arc across high and low,

A. Sharma (*) Department of English, Faculty of Arts, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_8




privileged and underprivileged, it demonstrated the great failure of the twin gods of science and technology that defined the advent of modernity. In India too, the pandemic has become germane to the idea of individual selfhood and community relations, albeit with a crucial notation not found elsewhere: the linkage of this disease with reflections on Gandhian ideology and its immediacy and relevance to our times. Leading English-language newspapers such as the Hindu, the Indian Express, and the Hindustan Times (to name just a few) have had short articles from a cross section of Indian opinion makers on the connections between this malefic disease and Gandhian thought. For instance, Geeta Dharampal’s short op-ed piece published on 20 April 2020 in the Indian Express titled ‘Covid Asks Us to Heed Gandhian Principles of Swadeshi, Swacchata and Sarvodaya’ begins thus the present dramatic scenario of pandemic spotlights the relevance of Mahatma Gandhi’s clarion call (articulated in his 1909-manifesto Hind Swaraj) to extricate ourselves from the mesmerisation of modernity. He even went as far as to discredit modernity’s alleged civilisational status as a “disease” to which we must endeavour not to fall victim. With modernity’s shining gloss getting unmasked as a deceptive mirage, it is dawning on us that our globalised lifestyle has made us weaker than ever (from a Gandhian perspective morally as well as physically).1

Gandhi, it seems, speaks to us no matter at which difficult cross road we may be standing. There are many reasons for this Gandhi recall, though none of them is in the nature of direct similitudes. Historically, the fear of death, of endangered selfhood, the near impossibility of winning the fight against a superior power whose reach is immeasurable are, without doubt, moments of reliving Gandhi. And curiously enough, for Indians, the pandemic recalled with immediacy another context which seemed unlinked to it, but had the same sweep and scale as it juggernauted across the globe: the still living memory of the mighty British Empire and its imperial stranglehold. Analogically, the Empire and its death-like grip could be approximated with the virus and its infernal capacity to crush the human spirit and denude the body of life. Thus, both the mighty British Empire with its inter-continental reach, and the coronavirus with its own frightful crown, rule through a pervasive fear circulated through a media that reaffirmed their unquestioning dominance through daily accounts. Furthermore, in the evocative words of the



poet William Blake, the imperial and the bodily contagion continually created ‘mind forg’d manacles’ through a steady stream of broadcasts in multiple media. Both, however, it seems, find their comeuppance through a counter-narrative drawn from Gandhi. To understand, thus, the close relationship between anticolonial struggle, print culture and its meshing in the figuration of Gandhi, it becomes useful to interrogate the establishment of journalism as a means, firstly of imperial dominance, and later, of its complete reversal. Thus, it is imperative to cast a look at the history of the press in India from the mid-­ nineteenth century onwards. In India, British efforts to encourage the development of the press to help support the colonial endeavour had an unforeseen consequence. Even as British-controlled newspapers presented the imperial vision, they also unwittingly fomented a slow but ever-­ growing anti-colonial resistance to it. The slim minority of Indians who read English-language newspapers began slowly but steadily forming a visceral resistance to imperialism. This resistance to the British version of the imperial endeavour was shaped through the daily, or more often, weekly reading of various print accounts in steady circulation. Thus a restive, though tiny, republic of letters grew from the written worlds encompassed in pamphlet, periodical, poetry and prose. Nevertheless, it was most notably in the domain of the regional language press as well as newspapers in English in India that the steadily changing relationship between master and subject was captured. Moreover, newspapers effectively blurred the binary between high and low culture by covering ideas that ranged from the spirit of anti-colonial resistance, the steadily burgeoning nationalism and the everyday minutiae that pointed to the steady modernizing and capitalist impulse of India by the 1940s. Newspapers bridged this gap successfully as they segued from reporting news of national and global import while simultaneously keeping alive the details of everyday life and its struggles. Indeed, it was the growing influence of newspapers in India that seminally shaped and helped achieve Indian sovereignty to a marked degree. However, this intersectionality is still an underexplored area: while a few scholars have done substantive work in the area, overall the relationship between the freedom struggle, nationalistic fervour and the creation and sustenance of a visual and verbal iconography about a new set of powerful politicians is still an underexplored area of critical enquiry. It was this rise in print culture and the reading republic that created what Jurgen Habermas famously denotes as the public sphere.2 Habermas’s



classic text, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society, and its English translation in 1989, made a strong critical impact in how to evaluate the close and complex relationship between a reading public that became steadily politicized and consequently questioned statist versions of a single truth. Central to Habermas’s thesis was the increasing vocalization and localization of new ideas via print media and its resultant effect on the reading public in eighteenth-­ century Europe. In essence, Habermas theorized that this growing readership now ideologically inhabited an alternative space of public dialogue and debate that replaced feudal structures of knowledge transmission. To reaffirm, the growth in print media led to the creation of a new and vital constituency constructed via the newspapers. It is a thesis that is also elegantly presented in Benedict Anderson’s seminal work on South East Asian polities and their shrugging off of the imperial yoke in the early part of the twentieth century.3 Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism has set the standard for any scholarly understanding on how the newspaper became the site of anti-colonial resistance and, later, supported the mobilization of freedom movements across South East Asia. However, Anderson’s focus on the overwhelming influence of American and European models for constructing the idea of the nation-state worldwide, even in the diverse and complex cultures of Asia and Africa, has been oft contested (for instance by Partha Chatterjee and Pheng Cheah). Nevertheless, for the purposes of this chapter, Gandhi’s sophisticated manipulation of the space created by what Anderson famously denoted as ‘print capitalism’ is still significant. In the Indian context, this new knowledge system crafted by the advent of print culture is what Philip Altbach referred to in The Knowledge Context. Altbach knit together the heritage of colonialism and its gift of English to provide space for a new ideology that was a complex reification of the West and the East.4 Nowhere was this complexity more apparent than in the English-language newspaper that used the language of the masters to unmask their moral, philosophical and economic duplicity. And, undoubtedly, the most gifted and formidable adversary who played the arch unmasker is M. K. Gandhi. It is he who understood the rich harvest that could be gleaned by using the space of English-language newspapers to further his agenda of swaraj, self-rule. With the advent of Fleet Street in India from the late eighteenth century onwards, the newspapers steadily became a space for multivalent representations of what constituted and defined a country, its people and its



culture. As mentioned above, Gandhi was one of the first ones to harness its capacity for affecting fundamental ideological change. This is borne out by S.  Natarajan in his review of the role of the press during the crucial period of the freedom struggle: ‘the last quarter of the century saw the rise of several Indian newspapers in English which grew to be organs of national opinion within a very short time’.5 As Natarajan avers, ‘The press fed off the Empire voraciously, and in doing so, came to have an influence on its affairs’.6 It also became a source of disseminating critiques of political decisions and their ramification on a subject people. Thus, ideas that were possibly seditious were now available for thought, discussion and possible action. Given his trans-continental education and a work-life that took him from the shores of Kutch, to London, to South Africa, and finally back to India Gandhi steadily used newspapers to mount his successful global campaign for India’s freedom. It was, as Sunil Khilnani writes, while he was in London, ‘that Gandhi had an immersive experience in a culture dominated and shaped by essayists, novelists, poets and philosophers’ who had effectively created a print empire in ink.7 Traumatized and painfully isolated as Gandhi was in London, how did he acculturate himself in what was undeniably an alien culture? In Khilnani’s words: ‘In London he began to read the daily newspaper (something he had not done in India), and was impressed by the functional, informational style of the press. He became a promiscuous reader’.8 From reader to practicing writer in South Africa saw the transformation of a now deeply politicized Gandhi. His own understanding of the race politics of his new country and his refusal to submit to it took shape in his launching his career as a journalist with great eclat. But, this account is not concerned with the oft-discussed career of Gandhi and his numerous, highly successful, publications given the existing scholarship on it. Rather, I seek to take this account beyond Gandhi, the highly successful journalist, to argue how he himself became a means—especially in the influential English-language newspapers in India—to reflect upon and comment on the swiftly changing reality of India in the defining year, 1947. The central argument in this chapter is related to how Gandhi’s life, thoughts, travels and words all become a critical signifier and barometer to interrogate the miasma that steadily overwhelmed pre- and post-independent India as it finally raised the victory standard of freedom. And all this is enshrined for us in the often poorly printed and badly preserved metropolitan newspapers published variously from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and the Madras Presidencies. This chapter explores, through the sampling of some days in



the defining year 1947, how Gandhi’s own carefully plotted self-­fashioning in terms of his representation in the public sphere was ruptured, interrupted or kept alive in a seamless continuum by newspapers. In particular, I will examine vignettes in two major newspapers: the organ of the swaraj politics, the former Akali-owned and later G. D. Birla-owned Delhi-based Hindustan Times, and, the paper established in the late nineteenth century under the leadership of the redoubtable Robert Knight, the Statesman (jointly published in Calcutta and Delhi). Gandhi’s involvement with the founding of the Hindustan Times is a well-known story. However, for purposes of this chapter, I refer to my own account of it in a recent essay on print culture and Gandhi where I mentioned that the appointment of Devdas Gandhi to the position of a Managing Editor seriously influenced the manner in which Gandhi, his father, was represented.9 Additionally, in 1947, ‘as the Devdas Gandhi helmed newspaper attained the status of being the dominant newspaper in Delhi, unsurprisingly, it is the one paper that had the most in-depth reportage on Mahatma Gandhi throughout the year’.10 But what of the Statesman and its continual engagement with Gandhi even as he moved away from East India (where he had largely been since November 1946 given the horrific communal killings) to Delhi in September 1947? And, more significantly, how does this chapter keep the Gandhian vision of peace and amity alive for its reading public through this difficult time? It is important to remember here that, unlike the nationalist Hindustan Times, the Statesman was a newspaper that was founded by British entrepreneurs, and thus, notionally should have owed its allegiance to Fleet Street and followed the diktats of the masters in Great Britain. Margarita Barns, in her 1940 survey of Indian newspapers, alluded to the great success of the Statesman, especially in Calcutta and commented that ‘This paper is independent and has been critical of the British Government and the Congress alike’.11 Barns’s assessment, accurate though it may well have been in terms of the political persuasion of the newspaper, seemed to gloss over the credentials of its first, most illustrious editor, the aforementioned Robert Knight and, in consequence, did not examine the nature of the coverage afforded in 1947 to the most illustrious Congressman, Mahatma Gandhi. Decades after the summary dismissal of Knight, and long after his death in straitened circumstances, it seemed that his imprint still lay at the core of the Statesman. A brief account of Knight is in order to partly understand why Gandhi was so much part of narrative of this British-owned



paper. Commenting on the heritage of this paper and on Knight, Edwin Hirschmann in his article ‘The Hidden Roots of a Great Newspaper: Calcutta’s Statesman’, writes thus Two great success stories from Victorian India were the Times of India of Bombay (now Mumbai), the pre-eminent paper of Western India, and the Statesman of Calcutta (now Kolkata), the pre-eminent paper of Eastern India. It is a little-known fact that both of these newspapers were the creation of one remarkable man, Robert Knight, whose zeal, fearlessness, and editorial brilliance rocked the shaky boat of Anglo-India. His critical, acerbic, and often incisive views of the Raj helped to establish his newspapers, first in Bombay and then in Calcutta, and provided a role model of adversarial journalism for the first generation of Indian nationalists. Knight was, apparently, the first European journalist to accuse the British government of plundering the Indian economy (in 1859), the first to call for a representative legislature in India (in 1860), and the first to endorse the call for self-­ government by the newly formed Indian National Congress (in 1886). Such an editor might well be an embarrassment to the Raj.12

Thus, against the backdrop of these two papers I exhume the construction, representation and subsequent consumption of Gandhi by the largely urban readers, particularly in the crucial time before, and soon after, the declaration of independence in mid-August 1947. The central argument reflects on the fact that at the moment of India’s independence the news is largely about the pageantry and panoply of the public celebrations. In vivid contrast almost, the man who fought for this celebratory hour without pause and without compromise is largely absent in the grand narrative of its victorious close. For instance, the Times of India has virtually no report on Gandhi either on its front pages or inside, barring one significant departure, of which I will speak of later, during the run-up to the granting of poorna swaraj. This is even more noteworthy since throughout much of 1947 the Gandhi phenomena is inextricably intertwined with how India begins to imagine and define itself. Almost across the newspaper archive there are often daily reports of Gandhi’s prayer meetings and his constant musings on how this new entity, the Indian nation, will define itself. The broad parameters of this discourse are based on the opposing visions that he daily struggles with: whether the new polity will endorse a process of systematic othering based on increasingly virulent caste and communitarian politics, or protect the shared ground of mutual respect and trust? As mentioned



earlier, how Gandhi’s views on multiple issues were either suppressed or shared via the daily newspaper reports gives us a useful insight—not only upon the fratricidal times—but also how they become historical markers of how we imagine ourselves as true-blue Indians till now. Consequently, the historical conundrum was thus: while Gandhi reports in certain sections of the English-language newspapers testified to his enduring presence in the new dispensation, its readers and the public at large seemed to disregard his words through actions that were totally contrary to his central philosophical ideal of ahimsa. This understanding of Gandhi and his deep relationship with newspapers was brought forth, curiously enough, in London. On 8 January 1948, just three weeks short of his martyrdom, the erstwhile editor of the Statesman, Sir Alfred H.  Watson, delivered the Sir George Birdwood Memorial Lecture. This Keynote Address was chaired by another journalistic savant, Colonel, The Honourable J. J. Astor, Chairman of the Times Publishing Company. Tracing the long and illustrious history of the English-language press in particular, Watson remarked that in 1948 there are in India ‘over 18,000 newspapers and periodicals; 3400 in English, the remainder in many vernaculars’.13 At the summation of his lecture which was entitled ‘The Growth of the Press in English in India’, he mentioned how the first English-language newspapers in India from the late eighteenth century onwards were meant for an overseas audience: ‘Most of the early newspapers were wholly designed for the British reader’.14 Rapidly sketching the history of English press, Watson referred to the steady assertiveness of the press from late 1885 onwards.15 Watson also signals towards the shift from Calcutta—the erstwhile seat of imperial power—to the ‘new capital’, Delhi. Furthermore, Watson speaks of the category of ‘The Indian journalist, [as] very frequently a man educated in England’ who understood the power wielded by Fleet Street. He also speaks of its continuance in the new India: ‘There could be no more firm assurance that, whatever other changes new political conditions may bring to India, the printing of papers in the English language will survive and flourish’.16 This was because ‘They are indispensable to the interpretation of the new Indias to the outside world, as Mr. Gandhi himself recognises in the English edition of the Harijan’.17 From the time of his return from South Africa to India in 1915, Gandhi slowly but steadily became the most interviewed, filmed, imaged person in early twentieth century, even when he was not directly in position of power and authority. What is being emphasized here in the context of 1947 is



that he is not a passive bystander who is at the mercy of whatever the print or other forms of visual materiality wish to make of him. Neither is he constrained by his present reality of being seen as a person whose great work is behind him, because this is the Mahatma who cannot be set aside, ignored, forgotten, hidden or silenced. In fact, here was a man who often controlled, directed and edited the ‘news’ that was centred on him, his ideology, his various causes and their representation in the public sphere. However, by 1947, I contend that there is a marked shift in terms of which Gandhi one will encounter within the pages of the daily newspaper, or, increasingly, if one will even encounter him at all. As the year rolls on and the transfer of power became imminent, the new normal moves with a frightening speed from the seeking and gaining of freedom to the division of spaces, peoples, objects and the allocation and management of assets and liabilities, human and other. All of this is now controlled by a newly empowered bureaucracy jointly controlled by the departing colonialists and the politicians of the twin states of India and Pakistan. The newspapers, in direct response to this urgency, often become spaces of factual information rather than reflective, judicious reporting on the complex times. In this shifting, mad world where information is key to one’s very life, where the practicalities of daily life were felt even more urgently than ever before, what became of Gandhi and his vision, his moral sense, his unique view of the human condition? Did the newspapers and their readers still seek to understand the shifting mental, emotional and physical cartography through the thoughts and words of the man who unquestionably won them this longed for freedom? Or, did his lustre dim and his life’s philosophy become increasingly irrelevant to the times he now lived in? In this new world, one, which seemed to forget to heed his belief in the respect for all, it is, unsurprisingly, his son, Devdas Gandhi, as Managing Editor of the Hindustan Times, who keeps the reader’s gaze firmly on him. At the beginning of 1947, far from Delhi, in the killing fields of Noakhali, where he went at the end of 1946 to stem the communal bloodshed, the Mahatma still held a special place in most news as the miracle man, despite his seeming absence from the centrist pull of governance and nation building. In the early month of 1947 he spent most of his time in Bihar with visits to Delhi, but in August, the defining month, he embarked on travels to Kashmir and Rawalpindi. August 1947 begins with newspapers announcing Gandhi’s travels from Rawalpindi en route to Kashmir. Thousands come to meet him at the various train halts but the mood was



not of veneration alone. The Statesman, reporting on 1 August, gave an account of what occurred at Amritsar station as the train halted on the way to Rawalpindi. Referring to the black flag demonstration by Sikh youths at Amritsar station in his evening address in Rawalpindi, Gandhi recalled how they kept shouting, ‘Gandhi go back’. No longer the Mahatma—or even Bapu to them—they refused to listen to him and, he asked plaintively of this audience: ‘What harm have I done to them?’18 The noise, he said, ‘made him close his ears and he closed his eyes and kept repeating the name of God’, the Ram that the Christian run paper was silent on.19 What the report underscored is the image of a bewildered Gandhi, uncertain and homeless in this fluctuating world with its shifting ethical prism. As the newspaper reported, Gandhi shares this trauma with a mixed community Rawalpindi audience comprising men, women and children hanging out from balconies, thronging the streets and paying homage to him even as fellow Indians, nay Hindus, shun and castigate him. It is a telling moment that foreshadowed the end of the man who won India long sought freedom. How terrible this time was and how conflicted people were come into even sharper focus by newspaper reports that mention the unsuccessful attempt to blow up the Frontier Mail in which Gandhi and his party were travelling. In Srinagar, he faced the same public response upon his arrival at a meeting where thousands have gathered to welcome him. Even as he was being garlanded by Begum Abdullah, slogans of ‘Quit Kashmir’ were raised against him according to the report in the Statesman on 3 August in its front page. At Baramulla, the scene was repeated; the reception arranged by the National Conference was aborted by Muslim Conference demonstrators who shouted pro-League and anti-Congress slogans and tried to mob Gandhi, who is then surrounded by a huge police posse. This telling verbal image showed the shift in public perception: the man who stood for the idea of communal harmony was now himself communalized and cast as an adversarial Hindu. On 4 August the same newspaper, while mentioning his meetings with various dignitaries, has another item placed right below it with the caption: ‘Gandhi asked not to interfere’.20 These responses of public, well-crafted felicitations and their obverse—the hostile public response on the streets—are reflective of the total confusion only some ten days or so before the declaration of independence and the official creation of the twin states of India and Pakistan. The people of Kashmir were on the knife’s edge as the Amritsar Treaty sale deed was to lapse on 15 August 1947. Yasmin Khan endites that there were ‘no maps



to help even the most well informed English speaking listener’ which country they would belong to21 and, hence, ‘it was left to newspapers to publish their own creative interpretation’.22 Gandhi, possibly for many of these frightened, uncertain people, was more a symbol of the upturning of their lives than a messiah of their freedom from colonial rule. People were panic stricken, especially in the states at the geographical edge of the subcontinent, due to the new category of ‘citizenship’ now touted as the methodology for belonging or exile, to or from, a nation. Joya Chatterjee, tracing the whole complex and twisted, inconclusive debate on the question of citizenship, remarks: ‘It soon became apparent that the issue could not easily be resolved, and so discussion of the citizenship clause was postponed’.23 Interestingly, this agitation and the consequent treatment of Gandhi by some members of the Kashmiri public was not the version that was reported by the Hindustan Times. Reporting on 4 August 1947 of the abortive public meeting on 3 August, the item spoke of the presence of ‘over 20,000 people’ whom ‘Gandhiji’ could not address on ‘account of people’s indiscipline’.24 The report also maintained his social and political prestige by informing its readers that his first meeting was with the Maharaja of Kashmir and that there were ‘three state cars’ at his disposal.25 Furthermore, it detailed the large number of women and children who came to the meeting, and that Pandit Ram Chandra Kak, Prime Minister of Kashmir, was the second personage to meet him one on one. The paper provided a veritable galaxy of the illustrious and powerful who come and meet him. However, it would appear that Devdas Gandhi was not content with this representation of the unquestioned status of his father, and the Father of Nation. Thus, the article ended with an evocative account of his walk around the magical Dal Lake at night time ‘under enchanting moonlight’.26 While most of the reports of Gandhi come from the Associated Press of India (API), it is of critical interest to see what precisely is privileged and what is suppressed in advancing the Gandhi image and vision. In the case of the Hindustan Times, what is represented in the public sphere, without variation, is the compelling image of a charismatic, still powerful and ever-relevant man. With the highlighting of his solitary walk around the romanticised landscape of the magical Dal Lake—a walk calmly undertaken despite the intense exertions and tensions of the day—the account stepped away from the hostility and rejection on ground. In fact, in a nuanced manner this report painted a verbal portrait of a unique man who had the great ability to live at ease in the public world while



maintaining the silence and meditative self of the private world. He was, in consequence, a man of this world, even as he simultaneously inhabited another, higher spiritual sphere. In short: The Mahatma. The great divide, the Partition in mid-August 1947, found Gandhi in Calcutta as he puts his life—once more—on the line and restores a blood-­ maddened Calcutta to one where there was relative sectarian amity and peace on the day of the declaration of independence. It was a hard-won victory for him and won, like many of his other famous battles, at great personal cost. There was, however, one crucial difference: his earlier struggles for decades were against the cruel despotism of a monstrous imperial power. The privations and bruises that were visited on his body and spirit were a sign of his greatness and his Christ-like capacity to take on the wounds and sufferings of others. In Calcutta, however, there is the moment where his house in Belliaghata is encircled by enflamed Hindu youth who threaten to attack him, and finally shatter the windowpanes. The Statesman reports on 14 August, two days after the attack, that the brick thrown inside the house narrowly misses Gandhi but a ‘European visitor’ is injured in the charge on the compound.27 The reporter details at length how the angry demonstrators stay for hours and about 200 youth keep yelling, ‘Go back!’ In a frightening replay of some aspects of his Kashmir visit, this report of the violence directed against Gandhi and his party on 12 August in Calcutta also showed Gandhi surrounded by a large armed and unarmed police force stationed for his protection from his own people. It also suggests a dimming of his image; his idea to meet with some twenty of these youth has no effect at all as they keep insisting he move out of Belliaghata to some other part of the city. Even the address of the Mayor of Calcutta requesting the agitators to calm down falls on deaf ears and there is, in fact, a charge on the house. The report departed from factual reportage to give an account of a visibly disturbed Gandhi who tried valiantly to keep his composure and attend to his correspondence. The reverberation of this fundamental rupture in the transcendent and inviolable image of Gandhi was even picked up by the Times of India. After a gap of almost two weeks in which it had focused on the political class that would form the new leadership of the twin Dominions, there was a front-page news item related to this attack. On 14 August the headline on the front page announced: ‘Mr Gandhi’s House Stoned by Mob; Hostile Demonstration in Calcutta. Usual Prayer Meeting Abandoned’.28 The shock of all reports from across the country at this unbelievable and unspeakable attack on Gandhi was widely circulated through the



newspapers. Tragically, and as with historical hindsight we know today, the final violation was still to occur on 30 January 1948. What is worthy of mention was that the Hindustan Times published on 13 and 14 August observed a complete silence on the Calcutta attack on Gandhi. Instead, its front page mentioned the desire for a UN membership for India and, closer to home, it shared the news that there were some 35 fires in Lahore on the day of the Boundary Award. Furthermore, it gave a list of the numerous shops gutted in Anarkali market, Lahore, and listed that some sixty died and about a hundred were injured in street violence. There was one news item on Gandhi, but it is more in terms of privileged information derived from knowledge of his inner circle. The readers were told that Gandhi’s party in Calcutta would include Professor Nirmal Kumar Bose who will act as his Secretary, with the further addition of his granddaughter Miss Manu Gandhi and his grand-daughter-in-law, Mrs. Ava Gandhi.29 Even as the larger family of his beloved countrymen seemed to turn on their respected elder, the Hindustan Times gave an image of a familial group that surrounded and revered him. Yet, the Gandhi magic still seemed to work despite this and there is a restoration of his symbolic and real value for his countrymen at the eve of Independence. Finally, Calcutta is calm on 15 August with Gandhi doing what he does best—fasting, prayer and observing silence. Victory apparently still followed him and his ideals. He was a saint and not a man quite like the others. More significantly, he was not one who needed to seek the trappings of power like those in the capital city, for instance, whose smiling visages, whose golden voices, inaugurate sovereignty and independence. But Calcutta was not where he closed his life work or his life. For that, he had to go the new locus of power and authority, the city of Delhi, the city that claimed him. After more than a month in Delhi, where he visited numerous refugee camps that were now the spatial and political sign of the huge human cost of liberty, the newspapers, especially the Hindustan Times, constantly refer to his daily deep engagement with the unprecedented scale of suffering. By September 1947, the daily killings, the constant spewing of anger in word and deed seemed to be wearing Gandhi down, and at his prayer meetings he often spoke aloud his despair and wondered if all have gone mad. But then arrived the month which we Indians have now marked in our yearly calendar as the only secular birthday celebration that is sacred to us: Gandhi Jayanti, 2 October 1947, Gandhi’s only birthday in free, independent India. The reportage of the day seems to put back the



spotlight on him as the central figure in the history of this new nation. The Statesman’s Delhi edition had a front-page photo of his bare torso, his hands folded, in profile with the announcement ‘Mahatma Gandhi 78 today’.30 It also stated that it was declared as the first public holiday by the Government of India and that peace processions would be taken out, and spinning demonstrations would also occur. The report also informs the readers that in honour of Gandhi’s birthday, the East Punjab government had ordered complete prohibition. Citing the words of Mr. Prithvi Singh Azad, Minister of Excise, East Punjab Government, it claimed: ‘We can pay no better tribute to him than to follow his teachings’.31 Calcutta is also gearing up for big celebrations. In Delhi, at 4 pm, the readers are informed that in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk there was to be a public rally to felicitate him and it would be jointly addressed by Nehru and Patel. From today’s vantage point, it becomes interesting to see how the Gandhi signature is already being laid onto the physical schema of the erstwhile imperial capital, with a designation of a space open for large public gatherings: the newly named Gandhi Maidan. It is a fitting tribute to a man who did not believe in monuments, but in the creation of monumental spaces where all could foregather, pray, discuss, disagree and engage in dialogue. Appropriately, it was left to the Hindustan Times to give the greatest coverage to this rare honour. On 1st October, in addition to the general account of spinning, weaving, peace processions and fasting common to all newspapers, it printed a big notice on a special programme by the All India Radio dedicated to Gandhi on his special day.32 The programme listing includes a musical repertoire of his favourite bhajans (hymns), one even sung by the diva M. S. Subbalakshmi; a broadcast of excerpts from Gandhiji’s writings and speeches in English and Hindi by a K. M. Munsi; a special talk by Dr S. Radhakrishnan in English on him; closing with his favourite hymn, ‘Vaishnava Jana ko tene kahiye’. October 2, the day of the birth, is commemorated by the Hindustan Times through printing on its first page a photo of Mahatma Gandhi: dhoti clad, with a folded newspaper in his hand, mid-stride, smiling. The man who was news and the man who read the newspapers where he was news seem to come together in a semiotic signal that is hard to miss. The recently concluded global celebration of Gandhi’s 150 birth anniversary is now part of the new element in Gandhinama, the Gandhi story. In India too, in a world far removed from the one Gandhi laid down his life for, the steady stream of Gandhi-centric events became a carefully orchestrated method of seeking a continuum between Gandhian



philosophy and the reality of a deeply fractured contemporary India as most recently demonstrated in the linkage between the pandemic and Gandhian thought mentioned at the opening of this chapter. In 2019, most English newspapers, especially from mid-September, began printing on their front pages a daily account of the Gandhi milestones. In these efforts, the Hindustan Times, though now far removed from its earlier anti-­establishment incarnation, launched its own special supplement on 16 September 2019 with an editorial note titled, ‘In memory of the greatest Indian ever’, ‘At 72, India is still young enough to remember the man who became the Mahatma. Yet, more than a billion of its 1.2 billion population were born after his death and could do with a refresher on why Gandhi matters today (the truth is, he matters even more than before)’.33

Notes 1. Indian Express, 20 April 2020, p. 8. 2. Jurgen Habermas, The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society (Boston: 1989). 3. Benedict R.O’G.  Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: 1991). 4. Philip Altbach, The Knowledge Context: Comparative Perspectives on the Distribution of Knowledge (New York: 1987). 5. S. Natarajan, A History of the Press in India (Bombay: 1962), p. 5. 6. Chandrika Kaul, Reporting the Raj: The British Press and India c 1880–1922 (Manchester: 2003), p. xii. 7. Sunil Khilnani, ‘Gandhi and Nehru: The Uses of English’, in Arvind Krishna Mehrotra (ed.) The Illustrated History of Indian Literature in English (London: 2003), p. 137. 8. Ibid. 9. Anjana Sharma, ‘Gandhi 1947: Representations, Print Culture and The Republic of Letters’ in, IIC Quarterly. Volume 46, Autumn 2019, Number 2, pp. 138–49. 10. Ibid. 142. 11. Margarita Barns, The Indian Press: A History of the Growth of Public Opinion in India (London: 1940), p. 425. 12. Edwin Hirschmann, ‘The Hidden Roots of a Great Newspaper: Calcutta’s Statesman’. Victorian Periodicals Review, Vol. 37, No. 2, The Nineteenth-­ Century Press in India (Summer, 2004), p. 142. 13. A. H. Watson. ‘The Growth of the Press in English in India. Sir George Birdwood Memorial Lecture’, Journal of the Royal Society of Arts, Vol. 96, No. 4760 (16 January 1948), p. 121.



14. Ibid. 122. 15. Ibid. 124. 16. Ibid. 129. 17. Ibid. 18. Statesman, 1 August 1947, p. 1. 19. Ibid. 20. Statesman, 4 August 1947, p. 1. 21. Yasmin Khan, The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (New Haven: 2007). 22. Ibid. 5. 23. Joya Chatterji, ‘South Asian Histories of Citizenship, 1946–1970’, in The Historical Journal, Vol. 55, No. 4 (December 2012), pp. 1049–1071. 24. Hindustan Times, 4 August 1947, p. 1. 25. Ibid. 26. Ibid. 27. Statesman, 14 August 1947, p. 1. 28. Times of India, 14 August 1947, p. 1. 29. Hindustan Times, 13 August 1947, p. 1. 30. Statesman, 2 October 1947, p. 1. 31. Statesman, 2 October 1947, p. 10. 32. Hindustan Times, 2 October 1947, p. 4. 33. Hindustan Times, 16 September 2019, ‘Gandhi Supplement’, p. 1.


A Modern Mahatma? Use and Misuse of Gandhi in Popular Culture Mei Li Badecker

Abstract  Mohandas Gandhi has become an iconic figure in world history. The #Gandhi is found across the internet as content related to him is never ending. Through an analysis of different media and popular culture in the twenty-first century, this chapter examines Gandhi’s portrayal and argues that this is often not an accurate representation of the man or his achievements. Keywords  Popular culture • Non-violence • Gandhi • Peace Mohandas Gandhi is connected to modern-day popular culture in significant and surprising ways. He appears in varied media around the world, ranging from songs, to television shows, to public murals. Gandhi’s portrayal in popular culture is overwhelmingly positive; he is usually treated as a saint. While these portrayals are not inherently inappropriate, content that only portrays Gandhi in a positive light often ignores, and sometimes misrepresents, his actual beliefs and work. His legacy has been

M. L. Badecker (*) Brooklyn, NY, USA © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2_9




manipulated over time to fit images that different groups have ascribed to him for their own purpose. Yet, Gandhi’s own writings do not shy away from his shortcomings, mistakes, and blunders. Even when Gandhi was alive, his work was seen as very progressive, which is one of the reasons why he is still an important figure today. He contributed to the abolition of untouchability in the Hindu caste system, pushed for equality and tolerance between Muslims and Hindus, gave women a voice in the political sphere, and fought for the rights of Indians in South Africa. In the fight for the eradication of untouchability, he encountered resistance, primarily from orthodox Hindus who did not believe a change was necessary.1 Gandhi’s belief in the eradication of untouchability transformed from moderate to radical over his lifetime. He even went so far as to claim that ‘if untouchability lived, Hinduism must die.’2 It is Gandhi’s unwavering stance and willingness to die for a just cause through his hunger strikes that still resonates in today’s world. Gandhi’s legacy remains unrelentingly positive. Biographies and other scholarly works show that his fame in the world only grew after his death in 1948 and works on Gandhi’s life and legacy continue to be published. In a review of the acclaimed historian Ramachandra Guha’s 2018 biography of Gandhi, The New York Times states how ‘Few figures in history have been so extensively chronicled, including by himself (Gandhi’s own published collected works run to 100 volumes and over 50,000 pages).’3 Guha examines Gandhi’s main arguments on the themes of ‘politics, social reform, religious relations, and self-improvement.’4 He discusses the complexities of Gandhi’s personal life and utilizes new material and sources not used before.5 One example of the new material Guha draws from is the writing by Pyarelal Nayar, who worked for Gandhi as a secretary.6 Nayar’s work included writings that did not appear in Gandhi’s Collected Works, and was made accessible to the public by the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in 2007, but took five more years to organize.7 Guha’s book reveals how even over 70 years after his death there is a seemingly endless supply of content related to Gandhi. Gianni Sofri in Gandhi and India summarizes the extent of Gandhi’s influence on the world: Just think of the passive resistance adopted by many Norwegians (especially teachers) against the Nazi occupation; of the battles of African Americans led by Martin Luther King Jr.; of the Solidarity movement in Poland; of the overthrow of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines; of the young people involved in the “Beijing Spring” of 1989; of the non-violent position of the



Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, leader of the Tibetan people’s struggle; of the extraordinarily courageous resistance against the Burmese military dictatorship, conducted by a woman, Aung San Suu Kyi … By itself or in cooperation with other currents of thought, Gandhi’s influence has been and still is strong.8

As Guha points out, Gandhi ‘made but one single trip outside of South Asia’ between 1915 and 1948, and before then had only been to Britain and South Africa.9 The people and events mentioned by Sofri show that Gandhi’s ideas and methods can be considered universal. In his chapter titled ‘Gandhi’s Global Legacy,’ David Hardiman discusses how Gandhi has been viewed positively around the world including by pacifists in the First and Second World Wars,10 as well as by groups involved in the anti-nuclear weapons movements.11 A major part of Ramin Jahanbegloo’s book The Gandhian Moment is about Gandhi’s influence on Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Confronting America’s racial dilemmas, King saw Gandhian philosophy as a new and powerful weapon against injustice.’12 The chapter ‘Gandhi and Beyond’ begins with a quote from King, ‘the spirit of Gandhi is much stronger today than some people believe.’13 King even travelled to India to study Gandhi’s philosophy and meet with his followers in 1959. The German Green Party and their leader, Petra Kelly, attempted ‘bringing together a wide variety of ecological action groups,’ and Kelly herself, Hardiman writes, was a lot like Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., in her practice of active non-violence.14 Jahanbegloo’s book includes a foreword by the Dalai Lama who acknowledges Gandhi’s influence on his life, especially his adoption of ahimsa: ‘I find it most encouraging to know that his life, in his deeds and words, continues to be a source of inspiration today in our rapidly changing world.’15 Whether people read Gandhi’s writings or books about him, watch a movie about him, or just appreciate him as an important historical figure, Gandhi is easily recognized in popular culture and the media today. Understanding Gandhi’s legacy in the popular context is as important as appreciating his relevance in the political one. There are many ways to define popular culture, such as John Storey’s straightforward and quantitative interpretation. Storey writes that popular culture can be defined as ‘culture that is widely favoured or well-liked by many people.’16 The primary media of popular culture that this paper will analyse include songs, television shows, and murals. Examining history through popular culture is worthwhile because ‘mass media can have



profound cultural effects and can shape the way people perceive certain issues and ultimately behave.’17 When Gandhi is mentioned or depicted, people are expected to understand the reference and we find illustrations of Gandhi in unexpected popular contexts. As a medium, people find music relatable and accessible, and with free services such as YouTube, music has become even more widely available in recent years. Eminem is a well-known rap artist in American culture and the world, and his work has reached millions of people. Eminem references Gandhi in his song ‘Venom,’ which was released in September 2018. The song is made to accompany the Marvel movie Venom starring Tom Hardy. It includes many references to the movie’s plot and main character, Eddie Brock. The music video for ‘Venom’ on YouTube has had, as of February 2019, over 228 million views,18 and according to Billboard, the song peaked at #43 in the ‘Hot 100’ category on October 20, 2018, in the United States.19 ‘Venom’ draws a parallel between Gandhi’s willingness to die for his beliefs and the character of Eminem’s alter ego Slim Shady in the lyric ‘Slim be a combination of an actual kamikaze and Gandhi (Gandhi).’20 This is the only time Gandhi is mentioned in the song. Genius annotations comment that: Em cleverly describes his alter ego, Slim Shady, as the combination of someone who would sacrifice himself for the sake of destroying his enemies, like the Kamikaze pilots, and someone who is willing to die for his beliefs. Here, his goal is to stop the advance of mumble rap. Also notice that “backing India,” as Gandhi did, can be heard as “Backin’ into ya”, which links to the line about reversing his car. You can also hear the sound of a crash.21

It may seem irrelevant or trivial at first for a rapper to mention Gandhi and compare him to his alter ego, because Gandhi is not often associated with rap music. However, I suggest that Eminem assumes that Gandhi is as much a part of modern popular culture as he is. By simply using Gandhi’s name he expects his listeners to recognize and understand the comparison being made. Whether people do or do not understand this comparison, the implication is that they should, since the only context is ‘Gandhi’ himself. Gandhi appears to have become self-referential in this version of modern popular music. It must be stressed that Gandhi, who was willing to die for his beliefs through fasts and hunger strikes, would never have agreed with the



Japanese kamikaze tactics of willingly killing for a cause. Gandhi was a non-violent pacifist, and suicidal aviators in a war are at the extreme opposite of his belief system. While Eminem is not directly comparing Gandhi to the kamikaze, the striking ideological difference between the two is either a brilliant dichotomy or an ignorant one. This might mean that Eminem does not fully understand Gandhi, or fully portray Gandhi’s total non-violence, yet expects his listeners to understand what Gandhi stood for. Gandhi as a world historical figure has been used in songs by artists from across the globe. Italian singer/songwriter Alessandro Mannarino, known simply as Mannarino, wrote a song titled ‘Gandhi,’ released in 2017 in his fourth album, Apriti Cielo. Mannarino takes a more critical approach to Gandhi and his non-violence, and in an interview with the magazine iO Donna, he stated: Cos’è diventato oggi Gandhi? Cos’è diventato il pacifismo? C’è un limite sottile tra pacifismo e remissività, tra pacifismo e abitudine a non cambiare la propria condizione, tra pacifismo e accettazione passiva delle ingiustizie.22 What became of Gandhi today? What became of pacifism? There is a thin line between pacifism and submissiveness, between pacifism and habit of not changing one’s condition, between pacifism and passive acceptance of injustice.23

As Mannarino explains in his interview with the magazine Democratica, these sentiments came to him throughout his frequent trips to Brazil, where he noticed the stark contrasts between the rich and the poor and finds rhetoric such as Gandhi’s to be out of touch with reality.24 This is apparent in these lyrics below about Brazil: Un vecchio avaro ha alzato il muro il giardino per i grandi, il vino bianco frizzantino. Ancor più bianco se servito con i guanti i guanti bianchi. Sotto i guanti unghie nere mani sporche di cantiere.25

An old miser raised the wall The garden for the grand The white sparkling wine Even more white when served with gloves White gloves Under the gloves black nails Dirty hands of construction site.

While the song and Mannarino are critical of Gandhi’s methods and how they relate to society today, they still reflect the image of Gandhi’s ‘pace edulcorata’26 [sweetened peace], and the rhetoric of Gandhi being a



pacifist, non-violent man. Between Eminem and Mannarino, Gandhi’s influence seems to be relevant in the twenty-first century to the United States, Japan, Italy, and Brazil. Both artists have reached millions of people around the world, and their use of Gandhi in their music shows that he is someone presumed accessible by consumers of popular culture across the globe. Television is another popular form of media in the modern world and arguably it can be seen as even more influential than traditional films, because large networks, such as NBC, have viewership in the millions. With Netflix, television shows are even more accessible, and Netflix’s own original content is popular. The Good Place is a recent American television show about where people go after they die, either ‘The Good Place’ or ‘The Bad Place.’27 In the very first episode, the main character Eleanor, played by Kristen Bell, unambiguously alludes to Gandhi’s saintliness by saying, ‘I wasn’t freaking Gandhi but I was OK.’28 It underlines the weight of Gandhi’s name and what people expect and are expected to associate it with. Gandhi is also mentioned in the ninth episode of Season 2, where the characters talk about being ‘good’ and that it is an active choice that needs to be made every morning, citing Gandhi and Mother Teresa as examples.29 Put together, these episodes had 11.48 million viewers in the United States alone,30 which demonstrates how these vast multitudes of people are expected to understand the Gandhi references. Such references are also testimony to Gandhi’s perceived goodness, and, as with the song ‘Venom,’ show that simply by taking Gandhi’s name, the audience can make a connection to this aspect of his persona. Netflix’s Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj invokes Gandhi in a more subtle and ironic manner.31 In an episode on the street-wear company Supreme, Minhaj begins with an analogy of how Supreme took anti-consumerist art and turned it into its logo: ‘that’s like opening a restaurant called “Gandhi’s All You Can Eat” buffet.’ Here, people are expected to know that Gandhi went on many fasts and hunger strikes, which demonstrates in turn the irony of a buffet with such a title. At another level is the allusion to Gandhi’s strict diet, which he had cut down to simply fruit, nuts, and goat’s milk by the end of his life. It would not have been much of a buffet, implying Supreme isn’t really anti-consumerist. However, Minhaj finishes his piece about the buffet by saying, ‘Also, we don’t sell to South Africans.’32 This can be interpreted as a reference to Gandhi’s problematic views on black South Africans. Minhaj is not calling Gandhi a bigot outright, but the implication is clear. In the way he phrases



his sentence, the big reveal is that Gandhi only catered to the interests of Indians in South Africa, and not the plight of black South Africans. While he does not explicitly say black South Africans, the implication was reaffirmed in a review of the episode in Affinity. Sumaiya Fazal writes that Minhaj ‘could have conveniently “forgot” about the reality of Gandhi or the racism within Asian and Indian communities but he didn’t.’33 While Fazal might be accused of making a bold generalization about Asian communities as ‘racist,’ Minaj’s insinuation is more powerful because it is implied. Moreover, he reaches a large audience since he is a well-known stand-up comedian with a strong online following of over 685,000 Twitter followers.34 In his allusion to Gandhi’s hunger strikes and food habits as well as his attitude towards black South Africans, Minhaj presumes that his viewers will understand the references, as well as the humour behind his witty phrasing. Murals of Gandhi in the United States and in India also contribute to the ways in which Gandhi is perceived and presented to the public. Murals are public art which depict images in a creative way, meant to be seen and understood by anyone who views them. They can reflect the values of the communities they are created in, the values that a community wishes to instil, and the values of the artists who created them. Murals range in size, and some of the Gandhi murals are considerably large and spotted easily. Murals of Gandhi in Delhi, Mumbai, Pittsburgh, and New York City are prominent in size, located in high-traffic areas, and have gained media coverage from major news sources. These murals are flashy, and easily capture the attention of passers-by. They clearly show that Gandhi has meaning, and is expected to have meaning, in these communities. The mural in New Delhi is on the police headquarters, and it was first unveiled on Gandhi’s death anniversary in 2014. The mural measures 6080 square feet, and was painted by graffiti artist Hendrik Keikirch, with assistance from Anpu, a local street painter.35 The Delhi Commissioner of Police said that, ‘I am sure for years this portrait will inspire not only the officers of Delhi Police but also the people who look at this great figure.’36 Here, Gandhi’s image is being used to ‘inspire’ the public, as well as the police; the former by associating the police with Gandhi’s image of peacefulness and gentleness; the latter by suggesting that the public ought to be treated with dignity and gentleness. This is significant because the Aam Aadmi Party, the political party that ruled Delhi in 2014, claimed that ‘Delhi Police is known to be brutal. Every now and then we hear of stories about Delhi Police’s brutality.’37



This was a statement in a video of Delhi Police beating a man and then taking money from his wallet, reported on January 25, 2014, only a few days after the unveiling of the Gandhi mural. The irony of the mural probably is not lost on either the police or the public. This mural can be seen as a fig-leaf for the police. The police feel the need to use Gandhi’s image of peace and non-violence because they were seeking, perhaps falsely, to be associated with these traits. Gandhi’s image is supposed to remind officers of ‘the true values of life,’38 and his image stands for peace. But policemen frequently act violently despite the mural on their headquarters. This also connects to the ending of Mannarino’s song: c’è chi fa lo sciopero della fame e chi sciopera perché ha fame Ma alla fine arriva sempre la polizia che non ha mai letto nessuno dei libri di Gandhi.39

There are those who go on a hunger strike And those who strike because they are hungry But by the end there is always the police Who have never read any of the books By Gandhi.

A mural in New Delhi is, I would argue, connected to an Italian song about Brazil, their unlikely association being a particular image of Gandhi. In Mumbai, a mural of Gandhi was a part of the ‘Sassoon Docks Art Project’ by the NGO St+Art India Foundation, at Churchgate Station, one of the busiest railway stations in the world that serves 500,000 passengers every day.40 It was created in 2017 by Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra. Residents as well as visitors can see this mural, which takes up an entire corner of the station, which is the terminus of the Western Railway, as well as its headquarters. The mural is an adaptation of a photograph taken by Kulwant Roy in the early 1940s.41 Unfortunately, in June 2019, Western Railway decided to remove the mural after a loose piece fell and killed a pedestrian.42 The symbolism between the placement of the mural being at a train station and the image of Gandhi stepping off a train is significant, as it ties the mural to its location. It is also important because of how railways have impacted on Gandhi’s life. One poignant moment mentioned in his Autobiography and depicted in Richard Attenborough’s film Gandhi (1982) was being thrown off a train in South Africa. The train departed from Durban and Gandhi had booked a first-class seat. Gandhi was spotted by a passenger at a stop in Maritzburg, and, upon seeing a ‘coloured man’ in a first-class seat, reported Gandhi to train officials. Despite Gandhi



having paid for the seat, the officials insisted that he had to move to a different compartment. Gandhi held his stance, and refused to move, which then led to his removal from the train. ‘The constable came. He took me by the hand and pushed me out. My luggage was also taken out. I refused to go to the other compartment and the train steamed away.’43 This moment was transformative in Gandhi’s life, and is one of the main reasons why Gandhi is associated with railways. Gandhi utilized railways to travel both in South Africa and within India. It was due to the railways that Gandhi was able to connect with the citizens of India and also gain support for his campaign towards Indian Independence. Interestingly, in Hind Swaraj, Gandhi wrote that ‘railways accentuate the evil nature of man.’ He saw them as a vice of Western civilization that enabled the British to conquer India. He also saw that they helped spread diseases and famine, as had frequently occurred in India.44 Due to Gandhi’s many associations with railways, the mural represents multiple parts of Gandhi and can therefore represent different meanings for the viewers. The New York mural is in the neighbourhood of Chelsea. It is also by the artist Kobra who painted the Mumbai mural. Kobra posted a photo of his work on Instagram in August 2018 with the caption ‘Tolerância/tolerance 18th St/10th Ave. #madre #gandhi.’45 The mural depicts Gandhi and Mother Teresa facing each other with folded hands in a tribute to each other’s humanitarian work. They appear to be in conversation. These two figures are known in the world for their contributions towards peace and selfless devotion to the downtrodden.46 This is not the only instance of Gandhi and Mother Teresa being associated together, as there was the previously stated episode of The Good Place, where the two are mentioned together as paragons of virtue. The bright colours and patterns of the mural ensure the viewer’s attention. It is three storeys high and takes up an entire building in a highly populated area, where thousands of people pass through every day. New York City is arguably one of the most culturally diverse cities on the planet and attracts millions of visitors every year. The mural is also visible from a popular tourist attraction, the Highline. It was created just in time for World Humanitarian Day,47 underlining Gandhi’s reputation as a humanitarian. While this or any other mural cannot provide a full picture of the complexities of Gandhi or Mother Teresa, it does utilize and contribute to the positive image of Gandhi in popular culture.



The Pittsburgh mural (Fig. 9.1) was a collaboration in 2013 between MLK Mural, Squirrel Hill Urban Council, and OM at Carnegie Mellon University.48 It was designed by Adelaide Cole and painted by members of CMU OM.49 The Jewish Hearts for Pittsburgh are a volunteer group of artists from a Facebook group initiative, formed in response to the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre in 2018.50 They group had artists create Stars of David with red hearts in the centre, and hung them around the city. A few were hung on the Gandhi mural, near the quote.51 The massacre was an act of violence unique to America, yet Gandhi, who had never set foot in the United States, was considered relevant as a message as well as a source of support for the victims and communities affected. Furthermore, the quote on the mural, ‘be the change you wish to see in the world,’ was never actually said or written by Gandhi. A New York Times article states that ‘the closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi

Fig. 9.1  Mural of Gandhi in Pittsburgh, designed by Adelaide Cole. (Photograph taken by author in Pittsburgh)



is this: ‘If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him … We need not wait to see what others do.’52 While this is close to the phrase most associated with Gandhi, it is not the same. The inaccurate quote on the mural reads like a ‘bumper sticker’53 or slogan, and the true meaning behind Gandhi’s quote is different. What Gandhi actually stated is that personal and social change are connected, but it takes multiple people working together to actually make change happen. This is significant because this incorrect quote has become memorialized, while Gandhi’s actual quote and message are lost to the general public, therefore arguably demonstrating the lack of both accuracy and nuance in understanding Gandhi and his intended message. This is not the only time OM has closely engaged with Gandhi and celebrated him. They installed a plaque and portrait of him in the basement of one of the buildings on Carnegie Mellon’s campus.54 Each year OM also celebrates, on CMU’s Pittsburgh campus, Gandhi’s birthday, or Gandhi Jayanti, which is one of three national holidays in India. In 2018 this celebration included ‘free hugs all day, a Gandhi dinner … and a Gandhi discussion.’55 There is irony in having a ‘Gandhi dinner,’ which is the same irony Minhaj used in his joke about a Gandhi buffet noted earlier. It is also unlikely that Gandhi ever did go around hugging people in the ways presented by OM. Despite this, it is clear from the ways in which OM has interacted with Gandhi that he is an important figure to them, and that his life and message continue to resonate with the community. The murals of Gandhi are also statements that represent people’s beliefs. Gandhi’s image in the form of murals show that he is a figure people are inspired by and want to memorialize, if not immortalize. All of the murals have been received positively, with many photos of them coming up on platforms such as Instagram.56 These murals contribute to Gandhi’s overall positive perception by the public because they were created with the intention of associating with Gandhi’s image and achievements. From these murals I argue that Gandhi functions as a blank slate for the idea of ‘peace.’ Indeed, Gandhi is equated with peace, just like in The Good Place where he was equated to the meaning of ‘good.’ In celebrating Gandhi with hugs and a dinner, using his image to represent a police force known to be brutal, and unveiling a mural of Gandhi for World Humanitarian Day, Gandhi is more than just an important figure. He acts as a vehicle in order to push a personal agenda of what peace is. The murals do not and cannot, however, allude to the complexity of



Gandhi’s character and actions. Thus, a human being, albeit an exceptional one, continues to be portrayed to the world as a saint, a mahatma, without flaw. The way Gandhi is portrayed in popular culture is important because the combined media of music, television, and public artwork is easily accessible by the public. Seeing murals is free and commonplace across the world. Music and television have audiences from every socio-economic class and popular culture is a powerful tool in modern societies everywhere. When Gandhi is built up to saint-like status in these media, it is the image the public consumes and eventually believes to be true. It is not until someone like Minhaj makes statements about Gandhi’s problematic aspects that people may begin to question this idealized man. Therefore, I believe that it is all the more important that a more accurate portrait of Gandhi be widely known. Gandhi is placed on a high pedestal in our society, as a saint, an ethical politician, a pious man, and as a simple man, and any faults are usually unexplored and are less likely to be accepted. Legacies are not inherently good or bad, and a detailed understanding of Gandhi should try to portray a fuller, more accurate picture. With social movements such as #MeToo emerging around the globe, discussion on topics that make people uncomfortable are now becoming mainstream. With someone like Gandhi, it is challenging to highlight his more negative ideas and views without it sounding like a dismissal of all the good work he did for marginalized groups and his fight for a nation’s independence. However, I would argue that his legacy can co-exist with his character flaws, as there is nothing wrong with greatness in certain areas and lack of it in others. The danger is when the conversation in popular culture becomes one-sided. The separation between Gandhi’s work and his character is a difficult area to navigate, because of his status, not only in India, but around the world as a man of peace and nonviolence, ahead of his time in countless ways. Yet, as Dulcé Sloan from the Daily Show with Trevor Noah puts it, ‘our heroes aren’t perfect, they’re people.’57 Gandhi did not like being called ‘mahatma,’ and preferred ‘bapu,’ or father. Furthermore, Gandhi himself encouraged those who have read him to be critical: ‘in judging myself I shall try to be as harsh as truth, as I want others also to be.’58



Notes 1. Ahsis Nandy, ‘Final Encounter: The Politics of the Assassination of Gandhi’ At the Edge of Psychology: Essays in Politics and Culture (New Delhi 1980), pp. 77, 78. 2. M.  K. Gandhi, ‘Speech at R.S.S Rally,’ 29 September 1947, Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi, Vol 96, pp. 380. 3. Alex Von Tunzelmann, ‘A New Biography Presents Gandhi, Warts and All,’ New York Times, 10 October 2018. 4. Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World 1914–1918 (New York 2018), pp. xiii. 5. Ibid., xix. 6. Ibid., xvii. 7. Ibid., xviii. 8. Gianni Sofri (translated by Janet Sethre Paxia), Gandhi and India (New York 1999), pp. 180. 9. Ramachandra Guha, Gandhi: The Years that Changed the World 1914–1918 (New York 2018), pp. xiv. 10. David Hardiman, Gandhi in His Time and Ours. The global legacy of his ideas (New York 2003), pp. 245, 246. 11. Ibid. 12. Raman Jahanbegloo, The Gandhian Moment (Cambridge 2013), pp. 136. 13. Ibid., pp. 135. 14. David Hardiman, Gandhi in His Time and Ours. The global legacy of his ideas (New York 2003), pp. 285. 15. Dalai Lama, Foreword, in Ramin Jahanbegloo. The Gandhian Moment (Cambridge 2013), pp. vii. 16. John Storey, Cultural Theory and Popular Culture, An Introduction (New York 2013), pp. 5. 17. ‘Mass Media,’ in Larry E.  Sullivan, The SAGE Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (Sage Publications, 2009). 18. EminemMusic “Eminem—Venom (Official Music Video)” YouTube video, 4:55. Posted [5 October 2018]. 19. Billboard https://www.billboard.com/music/Eminem/chart-history/ hot-100/song/1095584. 20. ‘Venom Lyrics.’ Genius. https://genius.com/15306490. 21. Ibid. 22. Raffaella Olivia, ‘Brasile, poesia e protesta: ecco “Apriti cielo”, il nuovo album di Alessandro Mannarino.’ iO Donna, 13 January 2017. 23. All translations from Italian are by the author. 24. Giordano Casiraghi, ‘“Apriti cielo”: invettive da Gandhi alle favelas. Parla Alessandro Mannarino,’ Democratica, 14 January 2017.



25. ‘Gandhi Lyrics,’ Genius. https://genius.com/Mannarino-gandhiannotated. 26. Giordano Casiraghi, ‘“Apriti cielo”: invettive da Gandhi alle favelas. Parla Alessandro Mannarino.’ Democratica, 14 January 2017. 27. The plot behind the show is that every person’s actions and decisions are given a number of positive or negative points, and when that person dies the highest number of points accumulated throughout their life determines where they end up. 28. The Good Place, ‘Everything is Fine’ Episode 1. Directed by Drew Goddard. Written by Michael Schur. NBC, 19 September 2016. 29. The Good Place, ‘Leap to Faith’ Episode 22. Directed by Linda Mendoza. Written by Christopher Encell. NBC, 4 January 2018. 30. Rick Porter, ‘Monday final ratings: “Big Bang Theory” and “Gotham” adjust up, “Kevin” and “Good Place” hold’ TV By the Numbers 20 September 2016, and ‘“the Four”’ “Will & Grace,” everything else unchanged: Thursday final ratings’ TV By the Numbers 8 January 2018. 31. ‘Minhaj’s weekly comedy show will explore the modern cultural and political landscape with depth and sincerity. Each week, Minhaj will bring his unique comedic voice and storytelling skill to investigate the larger trends shaping our fragmented world,’ Show Description, Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, Netflix. 32. Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj, ‘Supreme’ Episode 5. Directed by Richard A. Preuss. Netflix, 18 November 2018. 33. Sumaiya Fazal, ‘Streetwear and Anti-Consumerism: A Review of “Patriot Act” Episode Five,’ Affinity, 20 November 2018. 34. Follower count as of 14 May 2020. Hasan Minhaj. Twitter Page. 35. In comparison, an NBA basketball court is only 4700 square feet. 36. ‘Delhi: Huge mural of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled on Police Headquarters wall,’ NDTV, 13 January 2014. 37. ‘Three Delhi cops suspended after AAP releases video of police brutality,’ The Economic Times, 25 January 2014. 38. Press Trust of India. ‘Delhi: Huge mural of Mahatma Gandhi unveiled on Police Headquarters wall,’ NDTV, 13 January 2014. 39. ‘Gandhi Lyrics,’ Genius. https://genius.com/Mannarino-gandhiannotated. 40. Mumbai is the 7th largest city in the world by population, and 2nd largest in India as of 2018. Niall Walsh, ‘The 20 Largest Cities in the World of 2018,’ ArchDaily, 27 November 2018. 41. colorsplash_india, “Mahatma Gandhi’s Mural at Churchgate Station, Mumbai.” Instagram, 30 January, 2018. Roy was an India photographer known for his iconic images taken during the India independence movement.



42. Mumbai Live Team ‘Railways to Remove Mahatma Gandhi Mural at Churchgate Station’ MumbaiLive, June 2019. 43. M.K. Gandhi, An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Boston 1993), pp. 111. 44. Anthony Parel (ed.), M.K.  Gandhi, ‘Hind Swaraj’ and Other Writings (Cambridge 2009), pp. 46. 45. Eduardo Kobra, ‘Gandhi Mural.’ Instagram, 19 August 2018. 46. Mother Teresa won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. Gandhi was nominated five times in his lifetime. 47. ‘In Living Color: The 2018 Kobra Street Art Occupation of New  York City,’ Mad Hatters New York, December 2018. 48. OM is a student organization dedicated to Hindu spirituality and culture. Justin McGowan, ‘OM Honors Gandhi with Portrait in UC,’ The Tartan, 5 December 2011. 49. Abby Simmons, ‘News Brief: Keynote Address, Mural Spread Messages of Peace, Nonviolence at Carnegie Mellon,’ Carnegie Mellon University, 1 October 2013. 50. Campbell Robertson, Christopher Mele and Sabrina Tavernise, ‘11 Killed in Synagogue Massacre; Suspect Charged with 29 Counts,’ The New York Times, 27 October 2018. 51. Marylynne Pitz, ‘Crafters create Jewish hearts for Pittsburgh and more than 40 volunteers hang them in the city’ Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 17 November 2018. 52. Brian Morton, ‘Falser Words Were Never Spoken.’ The New York Times, 29 August 2011. 53. Ibid. 54. Justin McGowan, ‘OM Honors Gandhi with Portrait in UC,’ The Tartan, 5 December 2011. 55. CMU OM Public Facebook Event. 2 October 2018. 56. See, for example, the review, ‘Eduardo Kobra Paints The Mural NYC Truly Needs Right Now: Mother Theresa And Gandhi In High Line Technicolor,’ New York Cliche, 28 August 2018. Another review: ‘Initially, it was just a building with a glass façade. But now there is a beautiful painting which reminds us of our national heritage,’ Raj Kumar Saraf, ‘Mumbai speaks’ Mumbai Mirror, 8 December 2017. 57. The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, ‘Martin Luther King Jr.: Not Just an Excuse for a Mattress Sale.’ YouTube video. 3:48. Posted 21 January 2019. 58. M.K.  Gandhi, An Autobiography: Or The Story of My Experiments with Truth (Boston 1993 edn.), pp. xxix.


Gandhi’s First Broadcast Broadcast to America 13 September 19311 The broadcast was made on the Columbia Broadcasting Service network from Kingsley Hall. In my opinion, the Indian Conference bears in its consequences not only upon India but upon the whole world. India is by itself almost a continent. It contains one-fifth of the human race. It represents one of the most ancient civilizations. It has traditions handed down from tens of thousands of years, some of which, to the astonishment of the world, remain intact. No doubt the ravages of time have affected the purity of that civilization, as they have that of many other cultures and many institutions. If India is to perpetuate the glory of her ancient past, it can do so only when it attains freedom. The reason for the struggle having drawn the attention of the world, I know, does not lie in the fact that we Indians are fighting for our liberty, but in the fact that the means adopted by us for attaining that liberty are unique and, as far as history shows us, have not been adopted by any other people of whom we have any record. The means adopted are not violence, not bloodshed, not diplomacy as one understands it nowadays, but they are purely and simply truth and non-­violence. No wonder that the attention of the world is directed towards this attempt to lead a © The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2




successful, bloodless revolution. Hitherto, nations have fought in the manner of the brute. They have wreaked vengeance upon those whom they have considered to be their enemies. We find in searching national anthems adopted by great nations that they contain imprecations upon the so-called enemy. They have vowed destruction and have not hesitated to take the name of God and seek Divine assistance for the destruction of the enemy. We in India have reversed the process. We feel that the law that governs brute creation is not the law that should guide the human race. That law is inconsistent with human dignity. I, personally, would wait, if need be, for ages rather than seek to attain the freedom of my country through bloody means. I feel in the innermost recesses of my heart, after a political experience extending over an unbroken period of close upon thirty-five years, that the world is sick unto death of blood-spilling. The world is seeking a way out, and I flatter myself with the belief that perhaps it will be the privilege of the ancient land of India to show that way out to the hungering world. I have, therefore, no hesitation whatsoever in inviting all the great nations of the earth to give their hearty co-operation to India in her mighty struggle. It must be a sight worth contemplating and treasuring that millions of people have given themselves to suffering without retaliation in order that they might vindicate the dignity and honour of the nation. I have called that suffering a process of self-purification. It is my certain conviction that no man loses his freedom except through his own weakness. I am painfully conscious of our own weaknesses. We represent in India all the principal religions of the earth, and it is a matter of deep humiliation to confess that we are a house divided against itself; that we Hindus and Mussalmans are flying at one another. It is a matter of still deeper humiliation to me that we Hindus regard several millions of our own kith and kin as too degraded even for our touch. I refer to the socalled untouchables. These are no small weaknesses in a nation struggling to be free. You will find that, in this struggle through self-purification, we have assigned a foremost [part of our]1 creed to the removal of this curse of untouchability and the attainment of unity amongst all the different classes and communities of India representing the different creeds. It is along the same lines that we seek to rid our land of the curse of drink. Happily for us, intoxicating drinks and drugs are confined to comparatively a very small number of people, largely factory hands and the like. Fortunately for us, the drink and drug curse is accepted as a curse. It is not considered to be the fashion for men or women to drink or to take intoxicating drugs. All the same, it is an uphill fight that we are fighting in trying to remove this evil from our midst. It is a matter of regret, deep regret, for



me to have to say that the existing Government has made of this evil a source of very large revenue, amounting to nearly twenty-five crores of rupees. But I am thankful to be able to say that the women of India have risen to the occasion in combating it by peaceful means, that is, by a fervent appeal to those who are given to the drink habit to give it up, and by an equally fervent appeal to the liquor-dealers. A great impression has been created upon those who are addicted to these two evil habits. I wish that it were possible for me to say that in this, at least, we were receiving hearty co-operation of the rulers. If we could only have received the cooperation without any legislation, I dare say that we would have achieved this reform and banished intoxicating drink and drugs from our afflicted land. There is a force which has a constructive effect and which has been put forth by the nation during this struggle. That is the great care for the semi-starved millions scattered throughout the 700,000 villages dotted over a surface 1900 miles long and 1500 miles broad. It is a painful phenomenon that these simple villagers, through no fault of their own, have nearly six months of the year idle upon their hands. The time was not very long ago when every village was self sufficient in regard to the two primary human wants: food and clothing. Unfortunately for us, the East India Company, by means I would prefer not to describe, destroyed that supplementary village industry, and the millions of spinners who had become famous through the cunning of their deft fingers for drawing the finest thread, such as has never yet been drawn by any modern machinery. These village spinners found themselves one fine morning with their noble occupation gone. From that day forward India has become progressively poor. No matter what may be said to the contrary, it is a historical fact that, before the advent of the East India Company, these villagers were not idle, and he who wants may see today that these villagers are idle. It, therefore, required no great effort or learning to know that these villagers must starve if they cannot work for six months in the year. May I not, then, on behalf of these semi-starved millions, appeal to the conscience of the world to come to the rescue of a people dying for regaining its liberty?

Gandhi’s Second Broadcast Broadcast to Refugees at Kurukshetra Camp, 1 12 November 1947.2 This broadcast was made from the studios of All India Radio, New Delhi. My Suffering Brothers and Sisters,



I do not know if it is only you or whether others too are listening in to me today. This is only my second experience at the radio. My first was many years ago when I was in London for the Round Table Conference. Though I am speaking from the Broadcasting House, I am not interested in such talks. To suffer with the afflicted and try to relieve their suffering has been my life’s work. I hope, therefore, that you will accept this talk in that light. I was distressed when I heard that over two lakhs of refugees had arrived at Kurukshetra and more were pouring in. The moment the news came to me, I longed to be with you but I could not get away at once from Delhi because the Congress Working Committee meetings were being held and my presence was required. Seth Ghanshyamdas Birla suggested that I should broadcast a message to you and hence this talk. Quite by accident, Gen. Nathusingh who has organized the Kurukshetra Camp came to see me two days ago and told me about your sufferings. The Central Government asked the military to take over the organization of your Camp, not because they wanted to coerce you in any way, but simply because the military are used to doing such organization and know how to do so efficiently. Those who suffer know their sufferings best of all. Yours is not an ordinary camp where it is possible for everyone to know each other. Yours is really a city and your only bond with your co-refugees is your suffering. I was sorry to learn that there is not that co-operation with authority or with your neighbours that there ought to be in order to make the Camp a success. I can serve you best by drawing attention to your shortcomings. That has been my life’s motto, for therein lies true friendship and my service is not only for you or India; it extends to the world, for I know no barriers of race or creed. If you can get rid of your failings, you will benefit not only yourselves but the whole of India. It pains me to know that many of you are without shelter. This is a real hardship, particularly in the cold weather which is severe in the Punjab, and it is increasing daily. Your Government is trying to do everything it can for you. The burden is heaviest, of course, on your Prime Minister first, the Health Department which is served by Rajkumari second and Dr. Jivraj Mehta third is also working very hard to lighten your sufferings. No other government could have done better in this crisis. The calamity is immense and the Government too have its limitations. But it is up to you to face your sufferings with as much fortitude and patience as you can summon to your aid and as cheerfully as you can. Today is Diwali. But there can be no lighting of chirags for you or for anyone. Our Diwali will be best celebrated by service of you and you will celebrate it by living in your Camp



as brothers and looking upon everyone as your own. If you will do that you will come through victorious. The General told me of all that still needed to be done in Kurukshetra. He told me that no more refugees should be sent there. It seems as if there was no proper screening of refugees and it is hard to understand why they come and are dumped in various places without proper intimation to the local authority. In my post-prayer speech last evening I criticized the East Punjab Government for this state of affairs. I have just had a letter from one of their ministers to say that the fault is not theirs but the Central Government is responsible for it. Now that all governments, whether central or provincial, belong to the people, it does not befit one to throw the blame on the other. All must work together for the general good. I tell you this in order that you may realize your own responsibility also. You must help in the maintenance of discipline in the Camp. You must take the sanitation of the place in your hands. I have known the Punjab well since the Martial Law days. I know the good qualities and failings of the Punjabis. One of them, and that is not confined to the Punjab alone, is the utter lack of knowledge of social hygiene and sanitation. Therefore it is that I have often said that we must all become Harijans. If we do, we shall grow in stature. I ask you, therefore, to help your doctors and your Camp officials—every one of you, men, women and even children—to keep Kurukshetra clean. The next thing I want to ask you to do is to share your rations. Be content with what you get. Do not take or demand more than your share. Community kitchens are a thing which should be cultivated. In this way too you can serve each other. I must also draw your attention to the danger of refugees getting accustomed to eating the bread of idleness. They are apt to think that it is Government’s duty to do everything for them. Government’s duty is certainly there but that does not mean that your own duty ceases. You must live for others and not only for yourselves. Idleness is demoralizing for everyone and it will certainly not help us successfully to get over this crisis. A sister from Goa came to see me the other day and I was delighted to learn from her that many women in your Camp are anxious to spin. It is good to have the desire to do creative work which helps. You must all refuse to be a burden on the State. You must be as sugar is to milk. You will become one with your surroundings and thus help to share with your Government the burden that has fallen on them. All camps should really



be self-supporting but perhaps that may be too high an ideal to place before you today. All the same I do ask you not to despise any work but rejoice in doing anything that comes your way in order to serve and thus make Kurukshetra an ideal place. The response to my appeal for warm clothing and quilts and blankets has been very good. People have responded well to the Sardar’s appeal too. Your share of these is also there. But if you quarrel among yourselves and some take more than their due, it will not be well with you. Your suffering is grave even now but wrong action will make it even worse. Finally, I am not one of those who believe that you who have left your lands and homes in Pakistan have been uprooted from there for all time. Nor do I believe that such will be the case with the thousands of Muslims who have been obliged to leave India. I for one shall not rest content and will do all that lies in my power to see that all are reinstated and are able to return with honour and safety from where they have today been driven out. I shall continue as long as I live to work for this end. The dead cannot be brought back to life, but we can work for those who are alive. If we do not do so it will be an eternal blot on both India and Pakistan and therein will lie ruin for both of us.

Notes 1. CW, Vol 48, pp.  8–10. This is a reproduction from The New York Times, 14-9-1931. 2. CW, Vol 97, pp.  293–296. Published in Harijan, 23-11-1947 and Hindustan Times, 14-11-1947.


A All India Leprosy Workers’ Conference, 35 All India Radio (AIR), 3, 87–98, 100, 101, 102n14, 140 Ananda Bazar Patrika (ABP), 63, 71–73 Associated Press of America (AP), 83, 86, 112 Associated Press of India (API), 112, 137 An Autobiography: The Story of My Experiments with Truth, 18, 37n1, 79, 150 B Bacteriology, 29–30, 34, 36 Bailey, Wellesley, 30, 35 Bangabani, 4, 63 Bharati, 4, 63, 65, 71, 72

Bharatvarsha, 4, 63, 65, 66, 68–70 Bhave, Vinoba, 36 Bichitra, 4, 63, 68 Bihar, 34, 114–117, 123, 135 Bill, Ilbert, 97, 110 Birla House, 94, 95, 101 Birla, G.D., 132 Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, USA, 31 Bombay, 17, 44, 78, 79, 81, 87, 90, 95, 109, 110, 118, 131, 133 British Broadcasting Company, 88 British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 3, 78–80, 87, 88, 90, 91, 98, 102n12 British Empire Leprosy Relief Association (BELRA), 27, 32–34, 36, 37n4, 37n7, 40n46, 40n53 Broadcasting, 3, 78–101

 Note: Page numbers followed by ‘n’ refer to notes.


© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020 C. Kaul (ed.), M.K. Gandhi, Media, Politics and Society, Palgrave Studies in the History of the Media, https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-59035-2




C Calcutta, 5, 31, 66, 71–73, 78, 79, 93, 95, 108, 109, 113, 115, 131–134, 138–140 Carter, Sir Henry Vandyke, 29 Chandkhuri, 30 Chatterjee, Ramananda, 65, 66 Chicago Herald Tribune, 83 Chowdhurani, Sarala Debi, 69–71 Civil Disobedience Movement, 2, 81, 110, 111 Cochrane, R.G., 33, 35, 37, 40n53 Columbia Broadcasting Service (CBS), 84 Cosmopolitan, 51, 52, 54, 56 Cuttack, 34 Cuttack Leper Asylum, 31, 34 D Dandi, 66–68, 81 Dandi March, 67–68, 82 Darling, Malcolm, 90 Das, Baba Raghav, 36 Dattapur, 33 Dawn, 5, 107–123 Delhi, 5, 44–57, 87, 91, 95, 113, 118–120, 123, 131, 132, 134, 135, 139, 140, 149, 162 Desai, Mahadev, 14, 79, 86 Dewan, Manohar, 33, 35, 36 Dunstan, Eric C., 79 E Ethics, 51, 54 F Fielden, Lionel, 87–91, 97, 99 Fischer, Louis, 84

G Gandhi, Devdas, 5, 132, 135, 137 Gandhi Memorial Trust, 34 Gandhi Smarak Nidhi, 34 Green Pamphlet, 10, 11, 13, 17–21 H Hansen, Armauer, 29 Harijan (HJ), 2, 4, 26, 32–35, 78, 96, 97, 99, 117, 134 Higgenbottom, E. C., 31 Higgenbottom, Sam, 31 Hindi, 2, 4, 92, 120, 140 Hind Swaraj (HS), 9, 10, 20, 21, 26, 28, 36, 50, 51, 98, 128, 151 Hindu, 33, 34, 128 Hindustani, 2, 92 Hindustan Times, 5, 94, 96, 128, 132, 135, 137, 139–141 I Indian Listener, 94 Indian Opinion (IO), 2, 3, 30, 37, 45, 49, 56, 78 Intermediality, 15 Islamicate, 45, 51, 52, 56, 57n5 J Jagadisan, T.N., 33, 35 Jan Prasaran Diwas, 101 Jinnah, M.A., 5, 108, 110, 112, 113, 118–123 K Kasturba Gandhi National Memorial Trust (KGT), 27, 33 Kaur, Rajkumari Amrit, 34, 89, 90, 96, 97


Khilafat, 44, 48, 49, 52 Knight, Robert, 132, 133 Kobra, Eduardo, 150, 151 L Ladha, Maharaj, 29 Leprosy, 3, 4, 26–37 London, 1, 17, 29, 36, 52, 78, 82–88, 91, 94, 99, 112, 115, 131, 134, 162 Lytton, Lord, 97 M Maharog, 33, 40n55 Maharogi Seva Mandal (MSM), 27, 33, 35, 36, 41n72 Manchester Guardian, 82 Mannarino, Alessandro, 5, 147, 148, 150 Manson, Sir Patrick, 29, 30, 39n26 Marconi, 79 Mehta, Jivraj, 35, 162 Miller, A. Donald, 32, 33, 35, 36, 40n43, 40n49, 40n50 Miller, Webb, 83 Mills, Jim, 83, 86 Minhaj, Hassan, 5, 148, 149, 153, 154, 156n31 Mission to Lepers, 30, 39n27, 40n49, 40n53 Mountbatten, Lord Louis, 91, 94, 95, 103n63, 118 Muir, Ernest, 32, 39n38, 40n55 Muslim League, 5, 107–123 N Naba Kushta Nibas, 35–36 Naini Leper Asylum, 31 Narayan, 63, 64, 67 Natal Advertiser, 16


Nationalism, 4, 5, 51, 52, 55, 60n44, 62, 78–101, 129 Navajivan, 78, 82 Nayar, Sushila, 33, 41n59 Nazi, 78, 93, 144 Newsreels, 81, 83, 87 New York Times (NYT), 82, 86, 144, 152 Noakhali, 113–119, 122, 135 O Oxford, 87 Oxford University, 89 P Pakistan, 92, 95, 96, 107, 111, 112, 115, 121–123, 135, 136, 164 Patel, Sardar Vallabhbhai, 92, 93, 97, 113, 140 Pioneer, 17, 32 Popular culture, 3, 5, 9, 143–154 Prabashi, 4, 63, 65–67, 69, 70, 75n15 Prophet, 50, 53–55, 59n37, 59n38 Public health, 4, 26–28, 30, 32–37 Public sphere, 129, 132, 135, 137 Purulia Leper Home, 31, 36, 39n39 Q Quit India movement, 91, 92 R Radio, 3, 78, 80, 81, 83–88, 90–93, 95–101, 162 See also All India Radio (AIR); British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Reading, Lord, 88



Reuters news agency (Reuters), 10, 17–20, 81–83, 88, 97 Ripon, Lord, 16, 97 Rogers, Sir Leonard, 31, 39n38 Roosevelt, President, 78 S Sabarmati Ashram, 63, 81 Saidapet, 35 Salt March (1930), 66, 81, 111 See also Dandi March Sambalpur Leper Asylum, 32 Sanger, Margaret, 40n43 Santra, Isaac, 32, 34, 35, 41n63 Shastri, Parshure, 28, 34, 36 Shirer, William, 83–85, 93 Srinagar, 136 Statesman, 5, 31, 132–134, 136, 138, 140 Sufism, 50 Suhrawardy H.S., 115, 119 T Tagore, Rabindranath, 62, 64–68, 70–74, 75n15, 93 Technologism, 9

Technology, 3, 8–14, 17–21, 56, 85, 99–101, 128 Telegraph, 3, 7–21, 46, 111 Thakkar, A.V., 35, 36 The Times, 29, 38n24 Times of India, 15, 17, 18, 86, 133, 138 U United States of America (USA), 31, 78, 83–85, 87 Unity and Minister, 29 Urdu, 4, 44–57, 58n11, 80, 112, 120 V Vernacular Press Act (1878), 97, 110 Veuster, Father Damien de, 29 Visual, 44, 45, 47, 48, 51–53, 56, 57n1, 59n37, 129, 135 W Wardha, 33, 35, 40n55 Y Young India (YI), 4, 26, 31, 67, 72, 78, 82, 86