Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi and his ‘Prataap’

Today, on the birth anniversary of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, the leading editor and freedom fighter of his time, who contributed to the efforts to upgrade Hindi journalism and end slavery in the country, the first thing that comes to mind is his It was the time of nationwide rise of farmer movements. Especially in Suba-e-Awadh, in those days the farmers had troubled the white government with their movements. In connection with one such movement, in 1920-21, when the farmers became agitated and took to violent movements, the white government not only brutally repressed them but also did not spare the newspapers and journalists supporting them. Among these, Kanpur’s daily ‘Pratap’, edited by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, pricked his eyes more because it openly supported the farmers without any pretense. Dedicated to the independence of the country and extremely vocal about the interests of the farmers, the motto of this paper was – ‘We will face the bullets of the enemy, we have been free, we will remain free.’

The editorial policy of this paper did not give even the slightest scope to the British to take even the slightest advantage of the contradictions between the non-violent campaigns for independence conducted by the Congress under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the armed campaigns conducted by the revolutionaries under the leadership of Chandrashekhar Azad. Because in that the campaigns of both these parties were equally supported and respected. On January 7, 1921, when the British army and police fired bullets at the farmers protesting against the arrest of their leaders on the bridge over the Sai River in Munshiganj of Rae Bareli city, ‘Pratap’ was the first letter that made him ‘another Called ‘Jallianwala’. In the oppressive circumstances of those days, this was like deliberately inviting the wrath of the government. When Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi, as the editor of ‘Pratap’, wrote a preface titled ‘Dairshahi and O Dyarshahi’ regarding the said massacre in its January 13, 2021 issue, the British were not only stunned but also came out to take revenge.

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Why not even get down, Vidyarthi ji had written in the foreword, ‘With the arrival of the Duke of Connaught, incidents like Jallianwala Bagh have started repeating in Awadh, in which the people, without understanding anything and not only their rights and soul, are being violated. He is being trampled underfoot with extreme despotism, but his dignity is also being destroyed. Whatever Dyer had done in Jallianwala Bagh, the District Magistrate of Rae Bareli did no less in Munshiganj. There was an enclosed garden and the banks of river Sai and there was no dearth of cruelty, ruthlessness and bestiality.

Not only this, ‘Pratap’, while publishing the ‘Kirti Katha’ of Veerpal Singh, the favorite MLC of Rae Bareli District Magistrate AG Sheriff and Talukdar of Khurehti, who had started firing on farmers in Munshiganj, called him ‘Dyer’s brother’ and this Also wrote that ‘Unfortunately for the country, this Indian fired most of the bullets.’ Then the British made Veerpal Singh a pawn and sent a defamation notice to the editor and printer of Pratap and when he did not apologize, a case was filed in the court of the Circuit Magistrate of Rae Bareli. In this case, famous historical novelist and advocate Vrindavanlal Verma represented ‘Pratap’. He presented 65 witnesses, which included Motilal Nehru, Madanmohan Malviya, Jawaharlal Nehru and Vishwambharnath Tripathi, etc., as well as farmers and women.

Many doctors, lawyers and municipal commissioners of Rae Bareli also confirmed the veracity of ‘Pratap’s’ news and analyses. Later in the cross-examination, Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi himself strongly presented his stand and said in his written reply that whatever he published was in the public interest and there was no bad intention of the editor or the writer behind it. He did not even know Veerpal personally. Vrindavanlal Verma also strongly defended him in his debate on March 22, 1921. Nevertheless, on July 30, 1921, first class magistrate Maqsood Ali Khan sentenced both the editor and printer of ‘Pratap’ to a fine of Rs 1,000 each and six months’ imprisonment. But, neither ‘Pratap’ changed his path, nor did Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. During his tenure as editor, Vidyarthi went to jail five times and bail was repeatedly sought from ‘Pratap’. But he did not leave the path of resistance to foreign power.

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