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INDIAN NEWSPAPER REPORTS, c1868-1942
from the British Library, London

Part 1: Bengal, 1874-1903

Part 2: Bengal, 1904-1916

Part 3: Punjab, Agra, Oudh, Rajputana and Central Provinces, c1868-1896

Part 4: United Provinces, 1897-1937
Part 5: Madras, 1876-1921
Part 6: Bombay, 1874-1898

Publisher's Note - Part 6

 

Introduction

Bombay, known as Mumbai since 1995, is the capital of the state of Maharashtra. It is the world’s most populated city, with an estimated population of 13 million and is the commercial and entertainment capital of India, housing the headquarters of the large Indian banks and Bollywood, India’s Hindi film and television industry.

The town of Bombay was the East India Company’s first port in 1668 and in 1687 became the Company’s headquarters. During the American Civil War

(1861-1865) the city became the world’s chief cotton trading market and the opening of the Suez canal in 1869 transformed it into one of the largest seaports on the Arabian Sea.

By 1906 it had a population of one million, making it the second largest city after Calcutta. It was the capital of the Bombay Presidency  and was a major base for the Indian independence movement –especially the Quit India movement launched in August 1942. After India’s independence in 1947 it became the capital of Bombay state.

Criticism of British rule, British agents and the administration of justice throughout the Bombay Presidency increased in the period after 1880. Lord Ripon’s repeal of Lytton’s Vernacular Press Act in 1881 saw the abolition of the Press Commissionership. The relaxation in the attempted exercise of political control by the British over the press in India opened the way for vigorous debate on the future of India. The writings of the Indian intelligentsia found their way into an increasing number of new newspapers, Anglo-Indian and Vernacular. The increasingly active independence movement later formed into two separate camps in 1907. There was the Garam Dal (the extremists or “hot faction”) of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who founded the Marathi daily Kesari (The Lion), and the Naram Dal of Gopal Krishna Gokhale (the moderates or “soft faction”). Early developments can be found in the newspapers of the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

These reports of the Bombay newspapers cover the period after the Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 through to Lord Curzon’s arrival in Bombay as Viceroy of India, on the last day of 1898.

The reports on newspapers from this region allow researchers to understand some of the provincial variations on political issues. The Bombay Association which had been founded in 1852 was a gathering of wealthy heads of business communities with rather moderate and liberal leanings. Their views found expression in newspapers such as Rast Goftar, Indu Prakash and Native Opinion. An early complaint was the financial mismanagement of the Bombay municipality and the resultant increase in local taxation. In the early 1870’s these Bombay businessmen launched a major ratepayers’ reform campaign. The Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 gave ratepayers the power to elect half of the members of the reformed Bombay Corporation, though the franchise qualification remained absurdly high until it was lowered in 1888.

Three lawyers founded the Bombay Presidency Association in 1885. Thanks to their energy this association quickly became a significant political force in the region, discussing local issues and making regular demands in writing to the Government of India. Dadabhai Naoroji, known as ‘the Grand Old Man of India’ was Vice-President of the Bombay Presidency Association. Badruddin Tyabji was a key founder figure. The redress of grievances and organising information about particular grievances was a major aim of these political leaders. They used the local press to help bring pressure to bear on the authorities. Sir Dinshaur Manockjee Petit was the first President. There was always a significant number of delegates from Bombay attending the annual meetings of Congress in the years after 1885.

Another important figure was Sir Pherozeshah Mehta, founder of the Bombay Chronicle in 1910, a member of the Bombay Legislative Council from 1893. He is known as ‘the Father of Municipal Government in Bombay’. He was municipal commissioner in 1873 and the chairman in 1884-5 and again in 1905. He had been responsible for drafting the Bombay Municipal Act of 1872 setting out the duties of the municipal corporation in key areas such as sanitation and health, the water supply, the creation and maintenance of roads, the management of hospitals, refuse collection and disposal, sewerage, cemeteries, crematoria, parks, public spaces, beaches and building works. When Gandhi arrived in India from South Africa, Mehta presided over the public meeting held to welcome him. He was twice President of the reception committee when the Congress sessions met in Bombay in 1899 and 1904. Mehta also presided over the Congress meeting in Calcutta in 1890.

The Indian National Congress, formed in 1885, was comprised chiefly of members of the western-educated professional elite. The very first meeting of Congress was in Bombay. Public opinion had started to turn against the British government of India and it sought to represent the views of the populace from both urban and rural areas. There was an undercurrent of feeling that British rule was unfair and this is reflected in the newspaper reports contained in this collection. Agitation and disturbances in the streets were common and the media played a huge role in re-enforcing feelings of real and imagined grievances.

Many changes were to take place in India in the second half of the nineteenth century but one of the most important was the development in communications. In the 1840’s the construction of major roads linking the main cities and regions had commenced, but railways were to have even more of an impact on the economy of the country. Construction started in the late 1860s and by 1880 the railway system was vast. This led to more people being able to travel throughout the country and to an increase in communication between different levels of society. Much information about the impact of the railways can be found in the newspaper reports. Other factors which influenced the major changes were the expansion of education, the increase in industrialisation and the growth of agriculture. These topics are well covered in the newspaper reports.

Indian Newspaper Reports

The Indian Newspaper Reports from the Asia, Pacific and Africa Department at the British Library, constitute an important series to be found in the Record Department Papers of the Oriental and India Office Collections. The reports consist of abstracts taken from Anglo-Indian and Vernacular newspapers for the various different regions of India.

The reports were completed weekly and consist of typewritten abstracts of the contents of Indian newspapers with some extracts, translated by an official translator whose name is given at the end of the week’s report. An extremely wide variety of newspapers was looked at weekly, ensuring that a wide spectrum of ideas, views and politics was addressed. The reports list the languages of the newspapers and where the papers were published with a note on the number of issues published.

Part 6: Bombay

The newspaper reports for Bombay included in Part 6 cover the years 1874-1898 with 1901-1921 included in Part 7. The abstracts and extracts contained in the reports will provide scholars with an invaluable insight into Indian social and political events, the conditions of the Indian and British population, criticisms of the British government and the development of nationalist feelings.

The reports for 1874-1879 cover only Native papers. The lists of around 65 newspapers examined for 1877 are divided into Anglo-Marathi, Marathi,

Anglo-Guzerat, Guzerati, Hindustani and Persian with details on where the papers were published and how often they were published.

By 1881 the reports also cover English newspapers as well as those in Canarese, Urdu, Urdu and Hindi and Persian and around 100 papers are examined each week.  Extra information is provided by giving the circulation numbers for each paper.

By 1887 around 150 newspapers are examined weekly and a separate one page report is provided on the Native papers published in Bera’r. This usually contains no more than 10 papers  in Marathi and Anglo-Marathi.    

By 1891 the 160 papers examined are divided into the following languages:

English
The Bombay East Indian
Bombay
Weekly
420
Mahratta
Poona
Weekly
400
Sind Times
Karachi
Bi-weekly
250
Indian Spectator
Bombay
Weekly
1,000
Anglo-Marathi
Din Bandhu
Bombay
Weekly
1,550
Dayan Prakash
Poona
Bi-weekly
450
Indu Prakash
Bombay
Weekly
925
Sudharak
Poona
Weekly
2,565
Marathi
Chandrodaya
Chiplun
Weekly
110
Hindu Punch
Thana
Weekly
600
Kesari
Poona
Weekly
4,300
Poona Vaibhav
Poona
Weekly
1,150
Anglo-Gujarati
The Gujarati
Bombay
Weekly
2,450
The Kaiser-i-Hind
Bombay
Weekly
2,502
Gurarati
The Ajab
Surat
Monthly
1,200
The Bombay
Samachar
Daily
1,800
The Jame Jamshed
Bombay
Daily
1,600
Praja Mata
Ahmedabad
Weekly
500
Svadesh Vatsal
Ahmedabad
Monthly
300
Anglo-Kanarese
The Kannada Suvarte
Bombay
Weekly
800
Kanarese
The Chandrodaya
Dharwar
Weekly
200
Rasik Ranjini
Gadag
Weekly
300
Marathi and Kanarese
The Shri Siddeshvar
Bagalkot
Weekly
250
Hindi
The Bharata
Bhrata Rewah
Fortnightly
367
Anglo-Urdu
The Mahomedan Herald
Bombay
Weekly
300
Urdu
The Gwalior Gazette
Gwalior
Weekly
850
Kushful Akhbar
Bombay
Weekly
200
Persian
The Iklil
Karachi
Weekly
160
English, Marathi and Hindi
The Pandit
Bombay
Weekly
1,075
English, Marathi and Gujarati
The Baroda Vatsal
Baroda
Weekly
900
Sindi
Muin-ul-Islam
Karachi
Weekly
290
Anglo-Portuguese
O Anglo-Lusitano
Bombay
Weekly
1,500
Papers for Berar
Anglo-Marathi
The Pramod Sindhu
Umrawati
Weekly
300
The Vaidarbh
Akola
Weekly
475
Marathi
The Shetakiari
Umrawati
Monthly
400

 

The reports for 1895 list around 200 papers and papers in Portuguese-Konkani are added.

The abstracts contained in the early reports were usually divided into the following sections:

  • Education
  • Ireland
  • Land Revenue
  • Social re-unions of Europeans and natives
  • The Public Service
  • Railways
  • Local Self-Government
  • Legislation
  • Afghanistan
  • Post office and Public Works
  • The General Administration of the country
  • Miscellaneous

But by 1887 this had been simplified to:

I Politics

II Legislation

III Education

IV Railways

V Municipalities

VI Native States

The reports contain detail on subjects as diverse as:

  • criticism of the Stamp Bill and the Forest Bill
  • the exclusion of Natives from higher posts in the Government
  • the state of the roads and lack of lights in Bombay  
  • overcrowding of railway carriages
  • the disloyalty of the Native Press
  • the famine tax and famine relief fund
  • Ireland and the struggle for independence
  • proposals to extend the number of Post Office Savings Banks
  • increase in the abkari duty on cocoanut trees
  • new regulations regarding the manufacture of salt in Mysore
  • need for improvement in the education, pay and status of the Village Patel
  • the Contagious Diseases Act
  • noisy street music
  • alleged oppression at Indore
  • the resignation of the Diwan
  • meetings of the Indian National Congress
  • the Diamond Jubilee of the Queen-Empress
  • the need to improve sanitary conditions in Bombay
  • the Manipur tragedy, 1891
  • Age of Consent Act
  • riots in Calcutta and Benares

The literate population in India was still very small in percentage terms, even by 1900, but it was undeniable that from 1870 onwards, the number of Indian newspapers and journals proliferated. Most were in native languages and had small print runs and a local circulation as the figures given earlier illustrate.

The following extracts provide us with an idea of the richness of research topics available in the reports:

The report for July 1881 includes the following suggestion for improving the condition of the ryots:

“The ‘Jame Jamsed’ of the 28th July says that to improve the wretched condition of the Indian land-holders and ryots, Government should refrain from imposing heavy taxes on the former so long as they improve their estates and spend money upon them….”

The report for the week ending 6 August 1881 includes the following extract from a newspaper complaining of the exclusion of natives from higher posts:

“The ‘Khandesh Vaibhav’ of the 29th July attributes the poverty of India to the exclusion of the natives from the higher posts in the administration of the country. Though our rulers say they govern the country disinterestedly they look to their own interests well enough. They say that the people are physically and morally unfit for admission to the higher grades of the public service, but this is not true, and is only put forward as an excuse. The true reason for the exclusion of the natives is that our rulers wish none but themselves to be benefited – a wish inseparable from human nature….”

The report for the week ending 4 July 1891 describes the growing feeling of resentment of Indian subjects:

“The ‘Maharashtra Mitra’ 2 July notices the following grievances of India:- We do not ask the English rulers for anything but affection; they have, however, no desire to show it. I have observed no Englishman seeking means to secure the respect and confidence of the people. An individual officer or two might be doing so, but it will be a mistake to say the same of all. It is true that the subjects should not hate their ruler, but if he has deprived them of happiness, is it not natural for them to cry out constantly that he has plundered, deceived and ruined them?....”

The following extract from the same report concerns press censorship:

“In noticing the remark made by Lord Cross on the freedom of the Native Press, the ‘Lok Bandhu’, in its issue for the 28th June, observes:- A law restricting newspaper comments will deprive the people of the means which they have at present of communicating their grievances to Government, will increase corruption among the public servants, a check over them being removed, and will, lastly, weaken the cause of national reform. The editors of all Native papers should, therefore, hold a meeting in time and send a memorial to Parliament praying for the non-introduction of any gagging enactment. It seems that the Government have hit upon this scheme as a punishment to the newspaper editors for the strong and united opposition recently made by them to the Age of Consent Act. But any curtailment of the liberty of the press would be considered a stain on the civilised English Government….”

 

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