Disquisition or Publicity?

NewsPaperNote: These are excerpts from D.V. Gundappa’s Kannada book entitled Vrutta Patrike (Newspaper) first published in 1928 then reprinted a few times. The book is a collection of essays derived from D.V. Gundappa’s speeches and writings roughly beginning in 1928. My translation uses the enlarged edition published in 1968, which is the one available today. The excerpt published in this piece is from an essay titled Vicharave pracharave? (Disquisition or Publicity?)

Any translation error is mine.

Journalistic writings of the past were mostly intellectual in nature. An editor typically used to take up a serious topic and write a detailed editorial exposition on it in a serious manner. The editor used to quote from several primary and definitive texts in such expositions, thereby enhancing and enriching the knowledge of readers. The names of such editors have thus remained immortal in the literary history annals of their respective languages.

If an editor is simultaneously a scholar, thinker, and a philosopher,  his writing will be imbued with a comprehensive examination of various facts, perspectives and will stimulate the intellect. More significantly, it is not enough if the editor is merely a pundit and a good writer. He must also possess the ability and attitude to examine a topic or issue objectively, and from all angles including contrary viewpoints with a fidelity to only the truth.

This fidelity to the truth forms the moral and ethical foundation of any newspaper.


Newspapers prior to Gandhi’s time freely carried writings and debates on a broad range of diverse topics. It was commonly accepted by all readers that every question or issue had two, three, or even four alternative or differing perspectives. It was also equally accepted that it was essential to objectively examine each of these perspectives. Thus, Gokhale had his own path carved out, Tilak had his, Lala Lajpat Rai had his, and Surendranath Banerjee had his. Public discourse freely and gladly welcomed and allowed space for everybody. People examined the merits and deficiencies of disparate opinions.

This atmosphere prevailed not just in politics but in economics and social reforms. Leaders and prominent public figures applied independent thought before arriving at an opinion. This naturally led to difference in opinion. In other words, a healthy dose of diversity of opinion existed in that period.

After Gandhi entered the scene, people lost this practice of critically examining any topic or issue and approaching it from multiple perspectives. The emphasis suddenly shifted in favour of a unilateral political voice which therefore meant that no obstacle should hinder the Mahatma’s leadership. The impression sought to be conveyed to the British as well as the international community was that India had spoken if Gandhi had spoken and that he had no opposition. Gradually, a situation arose where people began to believe that unless this impression was convincingly made, we wouldn’t achieve Independence. No public gathering or speech was complete without the slogan of Gandhiji ki Jai! Slowly, this escalated to the level of thought—nobody could even think about Gandhi without the mandatory Mahatma prefix.

Our newspapers and opinion-makers quickly followed suit. Their stance was that perchance somebody found something to disagree with even one thing that Gandhi said, he or she had to compulsorily suppress its expression. Thus the national atmosphere of discourse quickly became one where nobody could ever think of something different from what Gandhi thought. The minds of the general public—both literate and otherwise—soon became habituated to conformity, which then turned to blind loyalty towards a partisan idea.

It could be possible that partisan loyalty might be useful for us in winning freedom. However, once freedom is won, this kind of partisan loyalty is definitely not sufficient to retain it. The need of the hour is diversity of perspective and diversity of parties and an objective examination of both. Our people must develop their intellectual faculties to carry out such an examination patiently and in a spirit of fairness. If ideas are not subjected to intense, objective and fair scrutiny and debate but are blindly implemented, they will most certainly be unhealthy for the nation.

Therefore, the fundamental goal of any newspaper should be to stimulate and engage the public in free, fearless, and objective intellectual discourse and debate.


7 comments for “Disquisition or Publicity?

  1. R. D. Choudhary,
    December 8, 2012 at 11:30 PM

    Mahatma Gandhi epitomised the adoption of ethnical component of religion in his movement and somewhere lost the spiritual character. He was perhaps charmed more than necessary under the glare and effectiveness of Pandit Nehru and virtually ruled out the openion of majority in choosing him as a leader.In the process lot of alternative voices, opinions, criticism got stifled and this mentality of conformity has been carried forward till this date by media and editors leaving very least room for dissent,constructive criticism and participative democracy.

  2. Mohandas Akanshka Alex Bandari
    September 19, 2012 at 5:34 PM

    Well, whatever you say about him, we would not be here today if it were not for the movement he inspired.

  3. Pralay Kumar Bal
    September 13, 2012 at 3:30 PM

    We can attribute three things of Mohandas Karachand Gandhi, through which he mesmerized India’s gullible masses: Loin cloth, Satyagraha or passive resistance and Ahimsa. These three were accepted psychologically, ethically and religiously by whole of India and made a perfect personality cult. Last one was gem of the three and he had used to the hilt to build up his own image, But it must be added that he could not get the desired result and failed miserably on two major fronts: Hindu-Muslim unity and Partition of India. He was not at all in the habit of reading books on various subjects regularly, least of all on Islam. He got only 37% marks in his matriculation. Certainly, he was not studious He stressed excessively on Ahimsa which is anathema to Islam.Thus lack of knowledge on Islam and applying Ahimsa, which is just the opposite of the former, took its toll. Like oil and water, both Islam and Ahimsa kept their separate identity. Ultimately in 1947, Muslim League danced with ‘moth eaten’ Pakistan and Congress danced with vivisection of India along with ‘tryst with destiny’ Moreover, this man never backtracked from his point of view on any issue, even knowing well that he is wrong. Both French philosopher Romain Rolland and Rabindranath Tagore had the same opinion. For Gandhi Ahimsa was not only a cult, but also was a Dharma. And here you see his Dharma:- “I would be ready even to sacrifice the country for the sake of Dharma; such is the ideal which inspires me. My patriotism is subject to my concern to Dharma, and therefore, if the interest of the country conflicts with that of Dharma, I would be ready to sacrifice the former”. This man was traitor to this country. In this respect I do not find any difference between Gandhi and a ‘sachcha’ Muslim.
    Here Rabindranath Tagor’s opinion about Mohandas is very interesting and eye opener. This is taken from a Bengali book, ‘Romain Rolland-Gandhi Sambad’: “His character is very complex..Such a queer combination of high mindedness and meanness is not to be found. There is lack of honesty in the corner of his mind”.
    I do not find any remarkable change has taken place with Main Stream Media. Well, internet is a way out.

  4. SP
    September 11, 2012 at 8:40 AM

    Gandhi was nothing but a manipulator and he did manipulate the Indian masses. But again he used Nehru’s charm to mesmarise the masses. No wonder today Indians are paying the price for that infatuations.

  5. September 10, 2012 at 10:53 PM

    [So when Gokhale reached Cape Town by ship on 22nd Oct 1912, instructions were given out well in advance by Rothschild to play to the gallery, and establish huge respect for Gokhale as the Mentor and Gandhi as the “rising sun” and the prospective successor as disposer of the destiny of the enslaved Indian.] http://ajitvadakayil.blogspot.in/2012/09/mahatma-gandhi-re-writing-indian.html

  6. g
    September 10, 2012 at 9:10 PM

    Priceless. Sheds an entirely new light on Gandhi-ism. The image of the kindly, benign and saintly old man suddenly seems to be the media/history/politically manufactured image of a virtual dictator. Gandhi was a conqueror and NOT a liberator of India. Truly amazing find. Can’t wait to read more translations of articles from the same author.

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