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Title: Public opinion and India policy, 1872-1880
Author: Dasgupta, Uma
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 1969
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This thesis, for the most part, is a discussion of the Indian press discussing the policies of the Government of India. I believe that, within the limits set by its sources, it is an attempt at a comprehensive understanding of the Indian press in the 1870's. We have so far only a very few general statements of the subject and as they cover a much longer period, they are necessarily sketchy. There are a few articles dealing with particular aspects of the subject, but they are necessarily incomplete. In dealing with this subject, I have derived great benefit from my study of what are called Part B Proceedings of the Government of India, now preserved at New Delhi. These records were not considered important enough to be sent to London, but they give details of circulation, editorship etc. of the Indian papers which are new and unexplored. Together with that I have studied the 'native newspaper reports' compiled by government translators, which give a total picture of the Indian press. This series of documentation has also not been used intensively by researchers so far. In addition to these two kinds of records, I have tried to understand the implementation and effects of official policy by examining the relevant volumes of proceedings, private papers, local reports, especially those kept now in Calcutta, and old sets of newspapers preserved in India and England. It has been my attempt to show that a study of the Indian press in the 1870's helps us in an important way to understand this missing decade of Indian history. There were no exciting events in this period, but there was an important process. The government by a flow of legislation touched Indian life at different levels over wider areas than before. The local, regional societies, spread over the subcontinent were stirred up. Although there were considerable variations in the reactions, there was a new awareness among Indians of the government, and in a certain sense a new feeling of common purpose. This was something broader and less articulate than nationalism; it was something more political and precise than the cultural discussion of the earlier decades of the century. I have tried to understand this diffuse phenomenon, by examining the public discussions round official policy which came to a definable focus in the decade. Thus the attempt to persist with the income tax provoked a unified outburst in India. The Indian and the Anglo-Indian press were at one and there was support for them from sections of the British press as well. It has been said that the Indian zamindar and the British planter were the people behind this agitation but the documentation shows that ordinary people were affected just as much and resented this new imposition. A second theme for discussion was the expansion of municipal government. The Government of India was concerned not merely with better sanitation but also with new methods of raising local taxes. In certain areas like Bombay and Calcutta, the Indian public attempted to turn this to political advantage but from much of the country the reaction was once again of resentment against a new attempt on the purse of the ratepayer. A third theme which was concerned with revenue was the controversy regarding the import duties on cotton. These duties which were thought to be protecting the infant Indian textile industry and earning good revenue for the Government of India were removed at the instance of Manchester. Public reactions in India were sharp and the country rallied to the mill-owners of Bombay. These mill-owners however retained their unimpeded progress to prosperity, and were unaffected by the change. A fourth major controversy in this decade came over wftat was called the Baroda affair. The Gaekwar of Baroda, an altogether unworthy ruler, attempted to poison, or so it was alleged, the British Resident at his court. He was tried by a judicial commission, and deposed. This caused intense annoyance to the public which had little doubt that the G-aekwar was worthless, but would not have him removed because he was an Indian prince. A fifth topic for discussion was provided by the criminal procedure bill of 1873. Through this the government attempted to tighten up its administration of justice. Most men in India however saw in it a reinforcement of the police and the magistrate who were their natural antagonists. In this lively debate the Indian public reassessed as it were the whole system of justice and found it wanting. Lastly by passing the vernacular press act in 1878 the government attempted to control the Indian language papers. For the first time it acknowledged how seriously it was taking the criticisms in the Indian press. This in turn obliged the Indian papers to take stock of the situation, and see how far they had strayed from the earlier discussions of culture. The stage was thus set for the tensions of the nationalist decades.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Nationalism ; Public opinion ; Colonies ; Administration ; Politics and government ; India ; Great Britain ; Asia