Chapter 5: OUR PAST PART - V
Printing press came to India from the Portuguese
missionaries. However it was the East India Company that
imported presses in the 17th century that boosted the press. English
censorship was directed towards Englishmen and Lord
Wellesley curtailed freedom of press to prevent
Englishmen from publishing reports about the Company rule.
James Augustus Hickey in 1780 started The Bengal Gazette or Calcutta
General Advertiser, the first newspaper in India, which was seized in
1872 because of its outspoken criticism of the Government.
The Company's officers were worried that
these newspapers might reach London and expose their misdeeds. Thus they
saw the need for curbs on the press.
Censorship of Press Act, 1799, Lord Wellesley enacted this, anticipating
French invasion of India. It imposed almost wartime press restrictions
including pre-censorship. These restrictions were relaxed under Lord Hastings, who had progressive views, and in 1818, pre-censorship was
Licensing Regulations, 1823, The acting governor-general John Adams, who
had reactionary views, enacted these. According to these regulations,
starting or using a press without licence was a penal offence. These
restrictions were directed chiefly against Indian language newspapers or
those edited by Indians.
Press Act of 1835 or Metcalfe Act, Metcalfe (governorgeneral-1835-36)
repealed the obnoxious 1823 ordinance and earned the epithet, "liberator
of the Indian press". The new Press Act (1835) required a
printer/publisher to give a precise account of premises of a publication
and cease functioning, if required by a similar declaration.
Licensing Act, 1857, Due to the emergency caused by the 1857 revolt,
this Act imposed licensing restrictions in addition to the already
existing registration procedure laid down by Metcalfe Act and the
Government reserved the right to stop publication and circulation of any
book, newspaper or printed matter.
Registration Act, 1867, This replaced Metcalfe's Act of 1835 and was of
a regulatory, not restrictive, nature. As per the Act, every book/newspaper was required to print the name of the
printer and the publisher and the place of the publication;
and a copy was to be submitted to the local government within
one month of the publication of a book.
VERNACULAR PRESS ACT, 1878 A bitter legacy of the 1857 revolt was the racial bitterness between the
ruler and the ruled. After 1858, the European press always rallied behind the Government in political controversies
while the vernacular press was critical of the Government. There was a
strong public opinion against the imperialistic policies of Lytton,
compounded by terrible famine (1876-77), on the one hand, and lavish
expenditure on the imperial Delhi Durbar, on the other.
The Vernacular Press Act (VPA) was designed to 'better control' the
vernacular press and effectively punish and repress seditious writing.
The provisions of the Act included the following.
The district magistrate was empowered to call upon the printer and
publisher of any vernacular newspaper to enter into a bond with the
Government undertaking not to cause disaffection against the Government
or antipathy between persons of different religions, caste, race through
published material; the printer and publisher could also be required to
deposit security which could be forefeited if the regulation were
contravened, and press equipment could be seized if the offence reoccurred.
The magistrate's action was final and no appeal could be made in a
court of law.
A vernacular newspaper could get exemption from the operation of the
Act by submitting proofs to a government censor.
The Act came to be nicknamed "the gagging Act".
There was strong opposition to the Act and finally Ripon repealed it in
In 1883, Surendranath Banerjee became the first Indian journalist to be imprisoned. In an angry editorial in The Bengalee
Banerjee had criticised a judge of Calcutta High Court for being
insensitive to the religious sentiments of Bengalis in one of his
Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act, 1908 Aimed against Extremist
nationalist activity, the Act empowered the magistrates to confiscate
press property which published objectionable material likely to cause
incitement to murder/ acts of violence.
Indian Press Act, 1910 This Act revived the worst features of the VPA —
local government was empowered to demand a security at registration from
the printer/publisher and forfeit/deregister if it was an offending
newspaper, and the printer of a newspaper was required to submit two
copies of each issue to local government free of charge.
Story of Opium in India
China was a country famous for tea, silk and porcelain. These
product had a huge demand in World trade but mostly the demand was
Chinese Tea. To import tea English traders had to pay in gold or
silver. The balance of trade was unfavorable and so Englishmen
devised a second strategy.
They manufactured Opium in India, smuggled it through traders
into China and sold it to Chinese traders for gold and silver.
This was used to pay for Chinese imports. This trade was now in
favor of British but morally damaged the Chinese. The entire
nation was now addicted to this drug, it is estimated that 12
million Chinese were opium smokers.
The story of opium production in India is different. The Indian
farmers were forced to manufacture opium and this was damaging to
- They had to sell only to British traders and at a low rate.
Thus producing opium wasn't beneficial for them.
- Opium was a delicate plant and it had to be nurtured and so
farmers didn't have time for other crops.
- It had to be grown on the best lands, well watered and
manured. Since usually pulses were grown on such lands they had
to be shifted to other lands which were poor in fertility. This
led to food insecurity
- Farmers who had no capital to cultivate their lands were
offered loans by the government agents. They were to cultivate
opium and then had to sell it to the government agents so that
the loan could be repaid. But the selling price was too low and
the farmers had to take a loan again from the agents for the
next crop. this cycle continued.
However the farmers rioted and refused to accept advances.They
cultivated other crops instead. The farmers sometimes would sell
opium to other traders who paid a higher price.
Soon farmers outside governments areas started making opium. This
would then be sold to traders in Calcutta who would ship it to
China. Thus the governments monopoly over opium was reducing.
Pastorals and the Colonial State
Pastorals had multiple factors to decide as a part of living like
where to find suitable pastures or grazing grounds for the herds,
how to form a relationship with the farmers so that herds could
graze harvested soil and manure the fields, calculate timing of
the movements of the herds so that they could pas uninterrupted
and also decide how long herd could stay in one area.
Pastoral life under Colonial rule:
- Colonials hated the pastorals and treated them like shifting
agriculturalists. There was no revenue from the herders and so
they were regarded as nuisance.
- Colonials wanted to transform all grazing land or open lands
for agriculture as this would get them revenue. They offered
land to people and gave them concessions to begin cultivation.
Waste land rules were enacted and so open grazing grounds or
pastures were brought under cultivation. The pastorals were now
facing a problem of finding new grazing grounds.
- Forests were declared under various Acts as Reserved or
Protected. In reserved forests no access was allowed to people
as these provided commercially important timber. Whereas in
Protected forests grazing was allowed but it was restricted as
British believed grazing would harm new saplings and prevent
growth of forest.
- Permits were issued regulating the timings for which pastors
were allowed and duration of stay was also regulated. This meant
that pastorals were to be fined for exceeding stays.
- Pastorals were constantly moving and difficult to monitor or
control. So British declared them as Criminal Tribes and now
there were to be allowed in notified villages only. Their
movements were restricted by permits and village police would
- Grazing tax was imposed on cattle and contractors would
collect these on behalf of the British. These contractors would
ask for as much as possible and pass on a fixed percent to
British and pocket the rest.
Fig 1: Pastorals in India
Textiles and Colonial State
Indian textiles had a huge
demand in the World markets. The Indian cloth were hand made
and exquisite. However after colonization the Indian textile
industry declined as artisans lost their markets overseas as
well as in India. The British policy was to blame for this:
- Indian textiles had to compete with machine made textiles
of British manufacturers. The large quantity of gods made it
difficult for Indian manufacturers to compete with.
- Due to high import duty in Britain the market of Indian
textile was lost as the cloth became noncompetitive.
- The British goods also captured the Indian market in
Africa, America and Europe. The Indian weavers and spinners
lost their jobs and turned to agriculture or moved to cities
or to overseas plantations.
- However not all types of clothes could be made by machines
like coarse cloth worn by poor people, intricately decorated
saris with traditional patterns. Sholapur and Mathura
emerged as new centers for such weaving activity.
- Traditional demand from royalty also declined as
British conquered these areas.
However during the First World
War the Indian industry boomed again and recovered its share
in the domestic market.
Iron Smiths and
The iron industry too was
affected by the British policies like cotton industry.
- Forest Acts prohibited the
smiths from accessing wood from Reserved forest from which
charcoal would be obtained. This charcoal was necessary for
smelting of Iron.
- Permits for accessing forests
and fines for violating them were applied on smiths.
- Britain saw the industrial
revolution and so cheap and efficient techniques were
developed for manufacturing Iron.
- Indian market was captured by
Britain till the First World War and Indian artisans lost
out. Indian blacksmiths too preferred British made iron.
- The traditional royalty was
replaced by Colonial state and saw a demand that existed for
iron for manufacturing swords, shields was no more.
- Emergence of Indian steel
manufacturers who set up huge plants with high
investments and had better economies of scale couldn't be
matched by traditional artisans.