By Shreya Kumar
India has seen a lot of changes where the term “communication” is concerned. It has come a long way from Biguls and the indigenous postal system (runners) to the new digitized media, where information is so accessible. Before that urbanization and modernization, people used buffalo horns, drums and plays to spread messages or make announcements. Most people were illiterate, so this way of communication, called the native communication system, was wildly used.
If you would look closely at history, you would find Britishers were the first ones to have brought “modern” means of communication to India. These would not only connect people living in the same town but also different towns with the help of telegrams and railways. This was much more efficient and quick to spread news and information around the country.
When the printing press arrived in India, railways and telegraphs played an important role in the circulation of newspapers to different parts of the country. It also helped to create a sense of belonging among the people by connecting them. Newspaper played a key role in in spreading awareness and leading mass movements and revolts. Slowly, nationalism became a shared notion among people, eventually leading to freedom.
With the introduction of the printing press, vernacular newspapers like Amrita Bazar Patrika, Amar Ujala and Bombay Samachar became very popular. Vernacular press played a huge role in creating a sense of nationalism. This was very evident during the Revolt of 1857, which is sometimes called the first war of independence. Newspapers began to inform people about the oppressive measures taken by Britishers. Therefore, the printing press became a great threat to British rule, and one of the main reasons for the downfall of the colonial rule.
After independence, it was a whole new territory for the press. Journalists were trying to figure out how they would contribute to the growth of India as a nation. The press was very supportive Nehru and his regime. Often, they would cover stories about new constructions and technological developments, like Nehru inaugurating a dam. Nehru said he wanted to have a free press and would never silence them. Also, private players came into play and started owning many media houses. Newspapers started making profits by printing advertisements.
The freedom of the press was suspended during the Emergency. The press had a hostile relationship with Indira Gandhi and found her manipulative and insensitive. After the Emergency, the press was no longer a personal ego-booster of the government. Instead, it embraced its responsibility as a watchdog. From then on, the press has had a love-hate relationship with government, wherein it keeps a check on those in power and sometimes the people in power pay the press to plant stories. Still, Indian press has come a long way, and it will be even more interesting to see its position in respect to digital content in the future.