Confused Desi more confused on National Herald – Motilal Nehru

My attempts to find some justification for the Sonia G / Rahul G family take over of National Herald is getting desperate by the day. The more I try to find a logical reason the more I realise there is very little justification on moral grounds. 

But every congress spokesman on TVCs say how Jawaharlal Nehru started National Herald & nurtured it. Does the Nehru / Gandhi family’s ties with Journalism start there?

But before that a small extract from the Memorandum of Association of Young India (The Main object to be pursued by the Company on its incorporation):

To inculcate in the mind of India’s youth commitment to the ideal of a democratic and secular society for its entire populace without any distinction as to its religion, caste or creed and to awaken India’s youth to participate in activities that may promote the foregoing in any manner whatsoever including, without limitation, participating in all democratic activities through open and transparent electoral process, so as to conform to the ideals of the founding fathers of India, Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. 

I am not able to understand how these could be translated into any meaningful activity but probably that reflects my back ground. I have been a bean counter (euphemism for accountant) all my life. Probably it takes a better mind than that of a Shylock to understand such lofty ideas. But there is a man who is more to my taste. A man who was willing to spend his hard earned money for the Nation and for the Son whom he doted.

The Extract below is from Pages 187 – 190 of the book *The Nehrus – Motilal and Jawaharlal* by B R Nanda published by The John Day Company, New York, first published in 1963. It is a biography of Motilal and ends with his death – surprisingly a very objective analysis of the Nehrus. The portion extracted deals with a Newspaper that Motilal started. 

‘What is matter of great concern to me’, Motilal wrote to Gandhi soon after the Calcutta Congress, ‘is not the giving up of the [legal] practice, but the fate of the Independent.’ The Independent started its career on February 5, 1919, before the passage of the Rowlatt Bills and the Satyagraha movement brought Gandhi to the forefront of national politics. Motilal had thus defined the aims of his newspaper :

‘The Independent has come into existence, to lay bare the soul of a nation, of a people ripening into nationhood, of communities merging into a people, of individuals growing into a community. How shall it approach its noble work? or better still, how not? Not along the facile line of opportunism, the fatal line of least resistance. . . But by bringing the fierce light of day to play upon dark spots wherever they exist By striving to press home the eternal truth that . . . while on the one hand national rights cannot be withheld to be doled out in little bits with a consciousness of high-minded generosity, those rights cannot, on the other hand, thrive in an atmosphere of religious cleavage and racial antagonism. Thus alone can the Independent fulfil its mission.’

Not all Motilal’s idealism nor all his money could make the venture a success. The high salaries which he offered created a stir in the world of Indian journalism and even succeeded in weaning some journalists from the local rival, the Leader, but financial mismanagement ultimately sealed the fate of the Independent . B. G. Horniman, the editor of the Bombay Chroncle, who was Motilal’s chief adviser in starting the new paper, was a fiery journalist, but he had little insight into the business side of a daily paper.

The first editor of the Independent was Syud Hossain, who had served on the Bombay Chronicle. Under his editorship the Independent made a promising start, but it soon ran into difficulties and became a great drain on Motilal’s bank balance just when, owing to his preoccupation with politics, his own income was dwindling. By the beginning of 1920, the Independent had become a headache to Motilal. It had not been easy to find a suitable editor after Syud Hossain’s departure, Jawaharlal tried to step into the breach, but he had too many other interests. And even Jawaharlal found that it was easier to dash off an article than to unravel the managerial and financial tangles of the paper.

Motilal was the Chairman of the Board of Directors of ‘Nationalist Journals’ which owned the Independent. The other directors were Syed Hyder Mehdi, Syed Nabi Ullah, Janki Nath Chak and Jawaharlal. Early in February there was a crucial meeting of the Board of Directors at Allahabad, but Motilal was unable to leave Arrah even for a few hours.

Motilal to Jawaharlal, February 10, 1920: Tour note on the “lad” [Independent]. I am sorry I do not follow your figures. It is easy to pass a resolution to continue the paper, but difficult to do so in decent form. What arrangements have been made for the supply of paper, types, etc.? Where is the money to come from? Who is to do the editorial work? I am thoroughly dissatisfied with Ranga Iyer, and cannot give him a free hand to put in any nonsense he likes … For the last nine months we have been playing at this stupid game. You say Joseph is out of the question [as editor]. He is a thousand times better than Ranga Iyer, who cannot be trusted to write a single line without pre-censorship either by you or someone else . . . Lajpat Rai is a good idea for the editorship . . , but by the time he is ready to fake charge (if at all) the “Ind” will be buried and forgotten. You cannot go on with your present bank balance and income even for a month…. Had I been present at the meeting I should have voted for complete suspension for a time . . ‘

A few days later Motilal tried to sell some shares in ‘Nationalist Journals’ during his visit to Calcutta, but without success. He could not interest financiers, but was able to enlist the services of Bipin Chandra Pal for regular editorial assignments. Since the partition of Bengal, Pal had been a popular hero in Bengal and indeed in the whole of India; in 1920 his name was still one to conjure with. He was modest in his demands and offered to write four articles a week for sixty rupees. ‘He expects payment punctually every Saturday,’ Motilal wrote, ‘the poor man is really hard up.’ In May Pal became editor of the Independent at a monthly salary of Rs. 500; one of his sons was appointed a sub-editor at Rs. 100 a month, and another son who was in England was to work as a foreign correspondent for £6 a week. At the same time Motilal appointed his energetic nephew Mohan Lai Nehru as the manager of the paper. The hope that these appointments would bolster up the prestige of the Independent and bring in fresh capital was not to be realized. B. C Pal’s politics were out of step with those of the Nehrus; his flamboyance outran his discretion, and the guns of the Independent, to Motilal’s consternation, were turned on Gandhi and the Congress. Within ten days Motilal was asking his son to ‘take Bipin Pal in hand. He has run amuck, abusing all nationalists without any distinction. His last attack on Gandhi is about “the limit”. The Ind appears to be doomed. Whoever comes to it loses his head’.

The Independent lingered on for another three years. By October, 1920, Motilal had sunk Rs. 80,000 in the paper, which needed a lakh and a half to work off its liabilities. He addressed a confidential appeal to friends :

‘I have given away freely from the earnings of my practice at the Bar whatever was necessary to keep it afloat, but these earnings have now ceased and I cannot possibly give what I do not possess. I can therefore no longer give to the Independent anything like the help I have so far given single-handed.’

It would be incorrect to regard the story of the Independent as merely one of editorial ineptitude and financial mismanagement. It provided a useful, perhaps essential, outlet for the political and literary enthusiasms of Jawaharlal, whose articles gladdened his father’s heart ‘The leading article in the “Ind”, which Nagu brought was excellent,’ Motilal wrote from Airah (February 26, 1920), ‘I smelt Jawahar in every word and sentence.’ In spite of all the headaches it gave to the Nehrus, the Independent was decidedly a political asset in the autumn of 1920. ‘It is the only English daily in India,’ Motilal proudly wrote to Gandhi on September 17, 1920, ‘to support the full programme of non-cooperation.’

  In the next post we will see what is *Young India* and Mahatma Gandhi role in it.




2 thoughts on “Confused Desi more confused on National Herald – Motilal Nehru

  1. The irony is that the national herald is a political newspaper devoted to democracy but why the need of acquisition by young indian? Why it could not be as original. The intention of Gandhi family is absolute bad.

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