‘Illegal meeting dispersed’ — How British mouthpiece reported - Mandi Gobindgarh News

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Wednesday, April 10, 2019

‘Illegal meeting dispersed’ — How British mouthpiece reported

‘Illegal meeting dispersed’ — How British mouthpiece reported

Vishav Bharti
Tribune News Service
Amritsar, April 9

“…quiet has since prevailed in the city.” 

As the entire city of Amritsar wailed, the British mouthpiece published from Lahore reported thus. The massacre at Jallianwala Bagh had been dismissed as a brief news report in the Civil and Military Gazette.

The pro-British English daily, published from Lahore, was founded in 1872.

The massacre was reported in a news item headlined ‘Illegal Meeting Dispersed’: “At Amritsar, all meetings were prohibited, but in spite of this prohibition one was announced to take place in the afternoon. About 6,000 people attended. This meeting, held in defiance of the law, was dispersed by a small force of Indian troops consisting of detachments of the 29th Gurkhas, the 54th Sikhs and the 59th Sind Rifles. The casualties were heavy, but quiet has since prevailed in the city, and it is expected that shops will open on the 16th.”

Besides, the paper reported in detail about the clashes of April 10 and called the protesters “hooligans” and discussed the “miraculous” escape of several Europeans and the hardships they faced. However, it remained completely silent on the killing of protesters on both April 10 and April 13.

The paper also hailed the loyalty of different kings of the princely states and reported their prompt action in suppressing the protests.

Even as the Civil and Military Gazette stood by the oppressors, a large number of newspapers, especially in Punjab, invited the wrath of the British government for reporting with objectivity.

As per a memorandum submitted to the government by the Press Association of India in 1919, action was taken against more than 950 newspapers and printing presses under the draconian Press Act and the Defence of India Rules. The government recovered a fine of Rs 5 lakh from the nationalist newspapers in less than five years.

The Tribune’s editor, Kali Nath Ray, Trustee Manohar Lal, Parkash’s editor Krishna and M Abdul Hai, former sub-editor of Kissan, were arrested from Lahore. When a hue and cry was raised over the arrests, the Civil and Military Gazette reported it as a brief item on “a number of arrests”.

However, the events in Amritsar brought a completely new kind of political consciousness in the journalism of the region. “Before Jallianwala Bagh massacre, most of Punjab journalism was pro-establishment and would revolve around religion. The massacre liberated it from the clutches of Singh Sabha and gave birth to political journalism in Punjabi language,” says Prof Narinder Singh Kapoor, former head, Department of Journalism, Punjabi University, Patiala, who is known for his work on the history of Punjabi journalism.

The incident particularly proved an important juncture in The Tribune’s history, which wrote boldly about the massacre. Even Punjab’s Lieutenant Governor, Michael O’Dwyer, in his memoir ‘India as I Knew It’ criticised The Tribune as a “local extremist organ”.

Prakash Nanda writes in ‘A History of The Tribune’: “The hair-raising accounts of the martial law atrocities, the regular publication of the proceedings of the Hunter Committee, the consistent reflection of public opinion in editorials and the reputation of The Tribune for independence all contributed to the notable increase in the paper’s popularity in 1919 and the subsequent years.”

The paper hailed the successful hartal of April 6 as “a great day that will live in our history”.


Dyer, O’Dwyer couldn’t gag ‘Voice of the People’

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