Saturday, January 20, 2007

Liberty Of The Press : M.K.Gandhi

One by one the pretensions of the Government that the reforms represent more liberty and more concession to popular feeling are dropping out under the stress of circumstances. The pretensions can be justified only if they can stand the test under a severe strain. Liberty of speech means that it is unassailed even when the speech hurts; liberty of the Press can be said to be truly respected only when the Press can comment in the severest terms upon and even
misrepresent matters, protection against misrepresentation or violence being secured not by an administrative gagging order, not by closing down the Press but by punishing the real offender, leaving the Press itself unrestricted Freedom of association is truly respected when assemblies of people can discuss even revolutionary projects, the State relying upon the force of public opinion and the civil police, not the savage military at its disposal, to crush any actual outbreak of revolution that is designed to confound public opinion and the State representing it.
The Government of India is now seeking to crush the three powerful vehicles of expressing and cultivating public opinion and is thus once more, but happily for the last time, proving its totally arbitrary and despotic character. The fight for swaraj, the Khilafat, the Punjab means fight for this threefold freedom before all else.
The Independent is no longer a printed sheet. The Democrat is no more. And now the sword has descended upon the Pratap and the Kesari of Lahore. The Vande Mataram, Lalaji’s child, has warded off the blow by depositing Rs. 2,000 as security. The other two have had
their first security forfeited and are now given ten days’ notice to deposit Rs. 10,000 each or close down. I hope that the security of Rs. 10,000 will be refused.
I assume that what is happening in the United Provinces and the Punjab will happen in the others in due course unless the infection is prevented from spreading by some action on the part of the public.
In the first place I would urge the editors of the papers in question to copy the method of the Independent and publish their views in writing. I believe that an editor who has anything worth
saying and who commands a clientele cannot be easily hushed so long as his body is left free. He has delivered his finished message as soon as he is put under duress. The Lokamanya spoke more eloquently from the Mandalay fortress than through the columns of the printed Kesari. His influence was multiplied a thousandfold by his incarceration and his speech and his pen had acquired much greater power after he was discharged than before his imprisonment. By his
death he is editing his paper without pen and speech through the sacred resolution of the people to realize his life’s dream. He could not possibly have done more if he were today in the flesh preaching his mantra . Critics like me would perhaps be still finding fault with this expression of his or that. Today all criticism is hushed and his mantra alone rules millions of hearts which are determined to raise a permanent living memorial by the fulfilment of his mantra in their
Therefore, let us first break the idol of machinery and leaden type. The pen is our foundry and the hands of willing copyists our printing machine. Idolatry is permissible in Hinduism when it subserves an ideal. It becomes a sinful fetish when the idol itself becomes the ideal. Let us use the machine and the type whilst we can to give unfettered expression to our thoughts. But let us not feel helpless when they are taken away from us by a “paternal” Government watching and controlling every combination of types and every movement of the printing machine.
But the handwritten newspaper is, I admit, a heroic remedy meant for heroic times. By being indifferent to the aid of the printing room and the compositor’s stick we ensure their free retention or restoration for all time.
We must do something more. We must apply civil disobedience for the restoration of that right before we think of what we call larger things. The restoration of free speech, free association and free Press is almost the whole swaraj. I would, therefore, respectfully urge the
conference2 that is meeting on Saturday next3 at the instance of Pandit Malaviyaji and other distinguished sons of India to concentrate upon the removal of these obstacles on which all can heartily join than upon the Khilafat, the Punjab and swaraj. Let us take care of these precious
pennies and that pound will take care of itself.
Young India, 12-1-1922, p.29

Forward, a creation of Deshbandhu, fully lived up to its name and the aspirations of its distinguished founder. By its dash, enterprise, resourcefulness and, above all, fearlessness it proved a thorn in the side of the Government. It was therefore marked out for destruction by means fair or foul. It has had several prosecutions launched againstit for daring to speak out the nation’s mind by calling a spade a spade. But it outlived all the prosecutions. It rather thrived upon themand the imprisonment of its editor and printer. But it was impossible for a moneyless newspaper to survive vindictive damages. The Judge’s verdict may be right though his leanings one can read in his judgment. But the Government’s action and, which is the same thing, the Railway Company’s action was wrong. If the article of the Forward was an overstatement, surely neither of the parties attacked could suffer pecuniary damage, for they were too powerful. And no damage exacted by them could possibly recoup them if they did suffer material damage at all. If it was a question of moral damage, I suggest that neither the Government nor the Company had any reputation to keep in such matters as were the subject-matter of criticism by the Forward. In any case their amour-propre should have been satisfied by the obtaining of the precious verdict.
But the application for compulsory liquidation shows that the object of the action was not compensation for the plaintiffs but it was destruction of the defendant. Well, they have had their satisfaction. They are welcome to it. Only they are riding for a fall. The Forward so vindictively crushed will live in the lives of the people. The fire lighted by it will rage with redoubled fury in the breasts of thousandsas it will no longer be able to find legitimate vent through the columns of their favourite paper. Though during my tour in the villages of Andhra I cannot follow the events in their proper sequence, I observe that a mean attempt is being made even to prevent the publication of the New Forward. The legal resourcefulness of the brains that are backing the national movement in Bengal against
tremendous odds may circumvent the Government. But even if they cannot cope with the legal and extra-legal powers possessed and unscrupulously used by the Government, they will still have deserved the gratitude of the country for bravely and fearlessly engaging in an unequal fight with the Government. A spirit has been awakened that cannot be crushed by any power on earth. Forward is dead, long live Forward.
Young India, 9-5-1929,p.145

It would appear from newspaper reports that Dr. Lohia3 went to Goa at the invitation of Goans and was served with an order to refrain from making speeches. According to Dr. Lohia’s statement, for 188 years now, the people of Goa have been robbed of the right to hold
meetings and form organizations. Naturally he defied the order. He has thereby rendered a service to the cause of civil liberty and especially to the Goans. The little Portuguese settlement which merely exists on the sufferance of the British Government can ill afford to ape its bad manners. In free India Goa cannot be allowed to exist as a separate entity in opposition to the laws of the free State. Without a shot being fired, the people of Goa will be able to claim and receive the rights of citizenship of the free State. The present Portuguese Government will no longer be able to rely upon the protection of British arms to isolate and keep under subjection the inhabitants of Goa against their will. I would venture to advise the Portuguese Government of Goa to recognize the signs of the times and come to honourable terms with its inhabitants rather than function on any treaty that might exist between them and the British Government.
To the inhabitants of Goa I will say that they should shed fear of the Portuguese Government as the people of other parts of India have shed fear of the mighty British Government and assert their fundamental right of civil liberty and all it means. The differences of religion among the inhabitants of Goa should be no bar to common civil life. Religion is for each individual, himself or herself, to live. It should never become a bone of contention or quarrel between
religious sects.
NEW DELHI, June 26, 1946
Harijan, 30-6-1946

No comments: