Confused Desi – Young India & Gandhi

The year 1919. Jalianwala Bagh had just happened. B. G. Horniman who was mentioned in the earlier post as Motilal Nehru’s chief advisor wrote fiery articles in his paper “The Bombay Chronicle”. The paper was placed under official censorship and Horniman whisked to Britain. The Directors asked Gandhi to take over and run the paper. Before he could, the paper was suspended. The Directors also controlled another paper called “Young India”. They asked Gandhi to run the same.  Gandhi also wanted a Gujarati daily, which was also made available to him. But by then Bombay Chronicle was free to be published. This allowed Gandhi to run Young India and Navajivan (Gujarati) from Ahmedabad. The first issue of Navajivan under Gandhi came out on Oct 7th, 1919 and Young India, a day later.

On the second page of the first issue (dated Oct 8th, 1919) appeared Gandhi’s editorial, “To the Subscribers and the Readers”:

Young India from this week enters upon a new stage. It became a bi-weekly when Mr. Horniman was deported and The Chronicle was strangled. Ever since the Chronicle’s rebirth, the syndicate and I have been considering the advisability of reverting to the weekly issue. The conversion of Navajivan into a weekly and its coming under my charge has hastened the decision. “The burden” of conducting a biweekly and a weekly is too great a strain on me and a weekly Young India will now serve almost as well as a bi-weekly. The annual subscription will now be Rs. 4 instead of Rs. 8 and the price of single copy will be one anna instead of two, without postage. Subscribers may either have the balance due to this change returned to them or the amount may be credited to the next year’s account. Those subscribers who be dissatisfied with the change can have the proportionate payment refunded to them on application.

The headquarters of young India have now been transferred to Ahmedabad for better management, and in order to enable me to devote some time to the Satyagraha Ashram which due to my continued absence from it was being somewhat neglected by me. Moreover, it was obviously uneconomical in every respect to edit two papers at different places. This deprives me of the privilege of being with Bombay friends as much as I have lately been. But I hope they will forgive me, if the new arrangement results, as I hope it will, in greater service to the country. Young India has hitherto been chiefly occupied in dealing with the Punjab affairs. But one may reasonably hope that the cloud will lift in the near future.

What will Young India then present to its readers? I frankly confess that to me editing a newspaper in English is no pleasure. I feel that in occupying myself, with that work, I am not making the best use of my time and but for the Madras Presidency, I should now leave the work of editing Young India. It is true that I should at times like to make my views in matters of general interest known to the Government. But I do not need to control a newspaper merely for that purpose.

The editing of Navajivan has been a perfect revelation to me. Whilst Young India has little more than 1,200 subscribers, Navajivan has 12,000. The number would leap to 20,000 if we would but get printers to print that number. It shows that a vernacular newspaper is a felt want. I am proud to think that I have numerous readers among farmers and workers. They make India.  Their poverty is India’s curse and crime. Their prosperity alone can make India a country fit to live in. They represent nearly eighty per cent of India’s population. The English journals touch but the fringe of the ocean of India’s population.

Whilst, therefore, I hold it to be the duty of every English knowing Indian to translate the best of the English thought in the vernaculars for the benefit of the masses, I recognise that for a few years to come, until we have accepted Hindustani as the common medium among. the cultured classes and until Hindustani becomes compulsory in our schools as a second language, educated India, especially in the Madras Presidency, must be addressed in English. But I will not be a party to editing a newspaper that does not pay its way. Young India cannot pay its way unless it has at least 2,500 paying subscribers. I must appeal to my Tamil friends to see to it that the requisite number of subscribers is found, if they wish to see Young India continued.

The more so now, because the proprietor of Young India have decided to give up all advertisements. I know that they have not been entirely, if at all, converted to my view that a newspaper ought to be conducted without advertisements. But they are willing to let me make the experiment. I invite those who wish to see Young India free from the curse of advertisements to help me to make the venture a success. The Gujarati Navajivan has already demonstrated the possibility of conducting a newspaper without advertisements soiling its pages. What a financial gain it would be to the contrary, if there was for each province only one advertising medium – not a newspaper – containing innocent unvarnished notices of things useful for the public. But for our criminal indifference, we would decline to pay the huge indirect taxation by way of mischievous advertisements.  Some readers who are interested in the purity of journalism recently sent me a most indecent advertisement extracted from a well-known newspaper. I have refused to soil the pages of Navajivan by reproducing it. Anyone turning to the advertisement sheets of even leading journals can verify the aptness of my criticism.

A word as to the policy of Young India.  Apart from its duty of drawing attention to injustices to individuals, it will devote its attention to constructive Satyagraha as also sometimes cleansing Satyagraha. Cleansing Satyagraha is a civil resistance where resistance becomes a duty to remove a persistent and degrading injustice such as the Rowlatt Act.

The Young Indian was published for more than 12 years as a weekly Journal. First Gandhi, then Rajaji and later George Joseph were the editors. Gandhi again became its editor in 1925. The Journal was finally replaced by “Harijan” as the official weekly that would carry Gandhi’s messages.


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