The incredible part about the fairly predictable #GandhiAt150 coverage in today’s papers—a week after the carefully choreographed #HowdyModi—is how much the Mahatma accomplished without TV, Internet, social media, cheer leaders, event managers—and pre- and post-paid owners, editors, anchors and reporters.
Leading the freedom struggle, dealing with fractious colleagues, fasting, walking, writing letters and books, editing journals, getting the message of peace and non-violence across to far corners of the country, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi packed plenty into his 79 years.
It boggles the mind to imagine what more he would have achieved with 21st century props—and trolls and bots.
Gandhi was, of course, the greatest Editor-in-Chief to have walked this planet, with a long and deep association with journalism, not afraid to get his hands dirty in ink or face pesky questions from the press.
He founded Indian Opinion when he was a lawyer in South Africa. He was the Editor of Young India, and founded the trilingual Navjivan, and Harijan.
In fact, he had the epiphany that resulted in the non-violent, non-cooperation movement that led to India’s freedom in ‘Tilak Bhavan’, the home of Kasturi Ranga Iyengar, the owner of The Hindu, in Madras, in 1919.
The IIM academic turned politician Prof M.V. Rajeev Gowda has a piece in The Hindu juxtaposing Gandhi’s journalism with today’s media.
Gandhi argued that “one of the objects of a newspaper is… to fearlessly expose popular defects”.
Gandhi was ready to face sedition charges for his journalism. In 1922, he pleaded guilty in order to expose the undemocratic nature of the sedition law, which he termed a “prince among the political sections… designed to suppress the liberty of the citizen”. He would be astounded to see this British-era law being used against journalists and activists today too.
Gandhi emphasised that publication of “false news is a crime against humanity… Young India will be stale when truth becomes stale.”
Gandhi said, “Freedom of the press is a precious privilege that no country can forgo.”
Hindustan Times has a long piece on the paper’s association with Gandhi.
He inaugurated the HT Press in 1924; he wrote “op-eds” for it; his fourth son Devdas Gandhi was its Editor, who was also responsible for the paper’s current location on Kasturba Gandhi Marg in Delhi.
At the inauguration of the press, Gandhi said words that should be inscribed in every news room:
“Every word and sentence published in the newspaper should be weighed. There should not only be no untrue statements, but no suggestio falsi, or suppressio veri.”
Devdas Gandhi’s son Rajmohan Gandhi would go on to become a resident editor of the undivided Indian Express.
“So great was the involvement of Devdas Gandhi’s family with the Hindustan Times that when the rotary press fell silent, I would wake up,” recalls Rajmohan Gandhi.
The Times of India has a piece on Mangesh Ghogre, the Bombayite who has set today’s New York Times crossword: on Gandhi.