A necessary weapon of war : state policies towards propaganda and information in eastern India, 1939-45.
This thesis studies official policies of propaganda at different levels of the
colonial administration in Assam, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and the eastern United
Provinces during the Second World War. By contrast to the available research, it treats
'propaganda' as a complex political strategy, whereby information and a variety of
material benefits were disseminated, always biased towards a particular viewpoint, with
the purpose of mobilising support for specific ideological campaigns, for example the
publicity launched against the Indian National Congress between 1942 and 1944.
Attention is given to the objectives of policy, the structures used to disseminate official
propaganda, the limitations imposed on these efforts by the available technology, the
audiences targeted, the themes advertised, and the impact of these activities on wartime
and post-war politics. Contrary to earlier work on the topic, this thesis argues that
colonial policy aimed not merely to suppress information inimical to that released by the
state, but also to collect intelligence about the morale of specific audiences, their
responses to the various nationalisms being articulated at the time, and the themes
which needed to be addressed at particular junctures of the conflict. The thesis
concludes that evidence of propaganda policies permiL<; generalisations about the nature
of the colonial state in the 1940s. It suggests that the authorities failed to mobilise
support for unpopular wartime policies amongst the civilian population and thus
increasingly depended on the use of force; and that this failure contributed, in large
measure, to the dissolution of the Indian Empire in 1947.