International Conference on Proscription and Censorship in Late Colonial India was organized from 7th to 9th August 2023 under the IOE Project RC1-20-028, Print as Resistance, Proscription as Control (A Cultural History of Banned Hindi- Urdu Print in Colonial North India, c. 1850-1947), a collaborative research project of Department of Hindi, University of Hyderabad, and Centre for the Study of Developing Society (CSDS), Delhi. The conference started with the Inauguration of the Poster Exhibition by the Honorable Vice Chancellor, University of Hyderabad Prof. B.J. Rao. The exhibition posters included covers of banned books, newspaper excerpts, banned posters that featured revolutionaries, and banned magazines. Posters were prepared by Srikant Roy. The conference formally started with lamp lighting by the distinguished guests. All the guests were facilitated by the department. The Proscribed Literature special edition of the UGC-Care Journal ‘Apni Mati’ was launched . Delivering the Welcome address Head of the Department and Project Investigator Prof. Gajendra Pathak welcomed the honorable Vice Chancellor Prof. B.J.Rao who graced the occasion as the chief guest and the distinguished speakers of the second international conference of the IOE Project. He also thanked the galaxy of international speakers of the first international conference which was held online during the pandemic period. He reminded the audience about the negligence of Colonial Period Proscribed Literature literary historiography of India. He argued that in the light of the availability of proscribed literature Indian Modernity can be understood in its totality and the meaning, character and History of the Indian Renaissance will be redefined. In the introduction of the conference Co-Project Investigator, Associate Professor, Department of History, CSDS, Delhi Dr. Ravikant urged people to understand resistance from artistic and visual perspectives. He called the proscribed literature Canonized. How this literature is different from conventional so-called good literature is worth pondering. In the Inaugural address, Chief Guest Honorable Vice- Chancellor Prof. B.J. Rao applauded the initiative of bringing the lost literature in the limelight. He emphasized the importance of uncovering the covered. The vice chancellor also discussed the importance of banned Indian literature as the source of cultural historiography of modern India during the colonial period.
In the first keynote address, Prof. Chamanlal (Retd. Prof., Centre for Indian Languages, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi) gave some accounts of proscribed autobiographies and newspaper articles related to Bhagat Singh. He mentioned Bhagat Singh’s book ‘Why I am an Atheist’ and its publication as articles in The People magazine edited by Lala Firozchand and proscription in the magazine. The biography of Bhagat Singh by Jitendranath Sanyal published in 1931 as articles in Ramrakh Singh Sehgal’s magazine Bhavishya was confiscated. He gave numerous examples of the contemporaries of Bhagat Singh like Dr. Ambedkar, Periyar, and CS Venugopal who held him in a high place and wrote about his revolutionary work and translated his books in different Indian languages. The historic value of these writings is more than their historicity.
Delivering the second keynote address Dr. Isabela Huacuja Alonso, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University, New York, USA talked about Radio Technology and its different associations. Dr. Isabel explained how radio was utilized by the German- Japanese Axis propaganda, the colonial government to counter the Axis propaganda and tame the revolutionary activities and Indian activists like Subhash Chandra Bose to spread the revolutionary message during World War 2. She also mentioned Ceylon Radio’s Bianca’s Garland of Songs program which traveled beyond the reach of the receivers and All India Radio (Urdu service) which catered to both Indian and Pakistani listeners.
In the third keynote address Dr. Jyotish Joshi, Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi articulated the critical contents of Gandhi ‘s ‘Hind Swaraj’ and the discovery of the Indian Identity. He mentioned the components of the Gandhian philosophy of Satyagraha, Non- Violence, Compassion, and the Ideal State and how it associates with the bedrock of Indian civilization. Gandhi criticized Western civilization on account of practices like slavery, mechanization, and regressive values. Dr Joshi urged to imbibe the values like altruism, animism, and harmony in Indian philosophy.
In the session’s concluding remarks Chair Prof. V Krishna, Dean, School of Humanities, UOH stressed upon the inclusion of Indian languages in literary history writing and more relevance to the banned literature.
The theme of the second session was Colonial Prescription. The session was chaired by eminent artist Shri Ashok Bhowmick. The session was moderated by Setu Kumar Verma. Speaking first Dr. Isabel Huacuja Alonso spoke about Radio South East Asia, Congress Radio and the Second World War. The Radio SEAC, Ceylon was targeted towards British soldiers to sway them in favor of the British war. Technology was used to build confidence in the empire also termed as Colonial Sublime. Turning this idea on its head Congress Radio used it to spread political news and the Quit India movement can also be termed as Anti-colonial sublime. Technological effectiveness was used in rebellion. Dr Isabel took two contrasting examples of Louis Mountbatten and Usha Mehta and explained how content is less important than the engagement that the technology represented.
The next speaker Dr Prabhat Kumar, Assistant Professor, CSDS, Delhi, shed light on the National Consortium and Hindi literature in late colonial India. Dr Kumar argued that Nationalism entails creating a moral community. Its proponents prescribed or proscribed with strong moral charge what to or what not to eat, wear, read, see, listen, or play. He spoke on the much-debated issue in Hindi literature Popularity versus Morality. He gave multiple examples from cartoons, various excerpts of articles written by Banarasidas Chaturvedi, Chandragupta Vidyalankar etc. written in Vishal Bharat, Sudha, Yuvak, Bhartendu which depicted the writers of vulgar or inflammatory literature (Ashleel or Ghasleti Sahitya) in low light. The reformist editors, deeply soaked in the cultural semantics of caste, accused them of corrupting the common masses and causing moral-sexual deviance and disorder. The sensory metaphor of such literature was immense, and that’s why the debate on its engrossing power was common in nationalist discourse.
Dr. Jolly Puthussery, Centre for Folk Culture Studies, UOH talked about proscription and resistance in the folk performance traditions of Kerala. He mentioned Kakakali play, theyyam, Pottan Theyyam, Christuvinte AaramThirumurivu (The Sixth Sacred Wound of Christ) and explained the different socio-political, religious factors that interplay to cause community proscription.
The next speaker Dr Pragya Sengupta, Assistant Professor, Department of English, Vellore Institute of Technology, Vijayawada talked about revolutionary Bengali poet Kazi Nazrul Islam. She highlighted social themes like caste, class, gender and religion in several proscribed writings of Nazrul like Yugabani (Message of the Age), Bisher Banshi (Flute of Venom), Bhangar Gaan (The Bursting song), Pralay Sikha (Doomsday Flame) and Chandrabindu. She also emphasized oral memory and visual performances to expand the scope of translation.
Giving the session’s concluding remarks, Chair Shri Ashok Bhowmick said that the will to resist is more important than the impact of the resistance.
The focus of the Third Session was Political Movements and Proscription. The Session was chaired by Dr. Pragya Sengupta. The Moderator of the session was Yogendra Pratap Singh. Speaking First Dr. Warsha Kumari talked about Press Regulation Laws from 1799 to 1951. She mentioned the Censorship of Press Act of 1799, Metcalfe Act, Licensing Regulation of 1823 and 1857, Registration Act of 1867, Vernacular Press Act of 1878, Indian Press Act of 1910 and Press Act of 1951.
Speaking next Setu Kumar Verma highlighted the cultural proscription on the tribes of North East during colonial times. He explained how indigenous traditions, folk literature, and economic activities were compromised after British intervention.
Shweta Yadav focused on two proscribed story collections-‘ Soje Vatan’ and ‘Angare’ published in 1907 and 1936 respectively. Premchand’s ‘Soze Vatan’ was proscribed due to its patriotic and anti-colonial tone while ‘Angare’ was banned due to its criticism of religious superstitions and hurting sentiments. Both writings are significant in promoting nationalistic discourse and realism in Hindi literature.
Khushboo Kumari talked about the proscribed book of Pandit Sundarlal, ‘British Raj in India’ published in 1920. The book highlighted the economic, and administrative policies of Raj and the social upheaval in India.
Speaking next Kousor Sabida Sultana spoke about various proscribed writings that highlighted social causes like the effects of opium, Indigo cultivation like ‘Desher Katha’ of Sakharam Ganesh Deuskar and Neel Darpan of Dinbandhu Mitra.
Speaking last Dr. Amarnath Prajapati talked about proscribed songs on various political movements of Gandhi Ji. The farmers, women and laborers all wrote songs about the non-cooperation movement, Salt March, and Swadeshi movement in various styles like Kajri, Barahamasa, Alha, Qawwali, Jhumari, Thumari etc.
Delivering the session’s concluding remarks Chair Dr. Pragya Sengupta said we should always keep in mind the Past while evaluating the Present.
The theme of the Fourth Session was Proscription in Regional Languages. The session was chaired by Dr. Jyotish Joshi. The Moderator of the session was Sandhya Chaurasia. Speaking first Prof. Sunil Tiwari, Department of Hindi, Shaheed Bhagat Singh College, University of Delhi talked about the glorious history of Hindi Journalism starting from the printing of the first Hindi newspaper ‘Uddant Martand’ in 1826 to a long list of fearless editors who were sentenced and fined. The newspapers became spokespersons of every movement.
Speaking next, Dr. Bhim Singh, Department of Hindi, UOH demonstrated the development of Press resistance in the princely states of Rajputana. He discussed various examples of newspapers like ‘Mazharool Saroor’ (1849), Prajahitaishi, Deshsevi, Prajasevak, Uparmal Ka Danka of Vijay Singh Pathik etc. The writings of Kesari Singh Barhatha’s ’Chetavani Ra Chungtya’ Sagarmal Gopa’s ‘Azadi Ke Diwane’, ‘Jaisalmer Mein Gundaraj’ and ‘Raghunath Singh Ka Mukadama’ were banned due to their open revolt against the tripple layers of oppression the colonial government, the Maharajas and the landlords (thikanedars).
Dr. Zahidul Haque, Department of Urdu, UOH shed light on the echo of resistance in Urdu poetry. He articulated how poets like Sardar Naubahar Singh Sabir Tohani, Tikaram Sukhan, Shamim Kehrani, Ramprasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan, and Josh Malihabadi addressed communalism, economic subjugation, and swadeshi movement in their poetry.
Speaking next, Dr. J Atmaram, Department of Hindi, UOH discussed the revolutionary poet Makhdoom Mohiuddin who wrote the history of Hyderabad. Makhdoom addressed every social-political evil like illiteracy, unemployment, beggars, and loss of farmlands in his poetry and exposed Nizam’s policies. He urged laborers and students to form unions.
Delivering the session’s concluding remarks Chair Dr. Jyotish Joshi specified that a writer cannot have the liberty to remain silent. It is her onus to generate resistance.
The highlight of the fifth Session was Proscription in Art and Theatre. The session was chaired by Prof. Vidya Sinha. The Moderator of the session was Rajneesh Kumar. Speaking first Shri Ashok Bhowmick articulated how the 1943 Famine of Bengal triggered the writers, painters, sculptors, film-makers, and theater groups to respond. He demonstrated photographs of famine by Suril Janah and paintings of Ramkinkar Baij, Somnath Hore, Sudhir Kashtagir, Gobardhan Ash, Atul Basu, Gopal Rai, Jainul Abedin which captured the horrors of famine. Further, he demonstrated the 1943 Reportage of Chittaprosad Bhattacharya named ‘Hungry Bengal’. These reports were matched with parallel sketches in blank ink, together with in-depth notes on his subjects and locations.
Speaking next Shri Rajiv Velicheti, Dramatic Arts (National School of Drama)- Theatre History, Acting and Direction, UOH suggested that we should understand prescription as an approach and mechanism by the state to control social life, political and cultural expressions of the public. The continuity of sedition law, defamation, hurting sentiments, banning books and censorship suggests that independence was not the breaking point of control practices. He also highlighted the break of the profession from art, the expectation of not earning through art is killing traditional artists.
Prof. Syed Mahmood Kazmi, Department of Translation, Maulana Azad National University, Hyderabad enunciated the development of nationalistic discourse in Urdu Literature. He referred to Ram Narayan Mauzun, Mirza Ghalib, Mushafi, Bahadur Shah Zafar, Wajid Ali Shah, Premchand, Iqbal, Josh Malihabadi and Chakbast to show how the form, content and aesthetic principles progressed throughout the Nationalistic movement.
Speaking last Dr Vishal Vikram Singh, Assistant Professor, Department of Hindi, Rajasthan University, Jaipur argued that the creativity which expands the canvas of humanity, conscience, modernity, and humanism is always proscribed irrespective of the ideology or nature of the power. He mentioned how writings on famines, commercialization of agriculture, crop failure, inequality, increase in taxes etc. were banned not because they challenged British rule but for their spirit of freedom. These movements were running parallel to the freedom struggle and continued even after independence. In this session, Chair Prof. Vidya Sinha in her concluding remarks ,said that Arts always intermingle with the sense of history.
The Sixth session was dedicated to the Research Scholar Presentation. This session was chaired by Dr Vishal Vikram Singh. The Moderator of the session was Manisha Mahesh Kumar.
Speaking first Suman Kumari spoke on the controversial chapters of the book by American writer Katherine Mayo ‘Mother India’ on religious dogmas, superstitions, health and sanitation of women, conditions of farmers and laborers and the response of Indian intelligentsia like Dalip Singh Saund, Dhan Gopal Mukerji, Chandravati Lakhanpal, Uma Nehru and Gandhi Ji.
Speaking next Rampyari shed light on revolutionary Sagarmal Gopa and his prescribed writing ‘Raghunath Singh Ka Mukadama’. Gopa throughout his life opposed the despotic rule of the Maharawal and his tax policies. Gopa was burnt alive in his prison cell and only Prajasevak newspaper exposed the inhumane treatment of the jail authorities.
Akshay Angulwar spoke presented paper on prescribed books of Veer Damodar Savarkar- ‘My Transportation for Life’, ‘Mopala’, ‘Hindutva’ ‘Kalapani’ and ‘The Indian War of Independence 1857’.
Chandrapal talked about the proscribed play of Laxman Singh ‘Kuli Pratha’ in which the forced labor and migration of Indians into other British Colonies was highlighted. The play also mentions the glorious past of India, its present downfall, opportunist Indians and cruelty to women.
Abhishek Upadhyay described the intellectual legacy of Bhagat Singh. He also mentioned the magazine ‘Bhavishya’ and the editorial dedication of Ramrakh Singh Sehgal.
The next speaker Prabhakar Kumar spoke on the restrictions on the writers and referred to the book of N Gerald Barrier ‘Banned: Controversial Literature and Political Control in British India 1907-1947’ which documents a list of proscribed writings.
Satyabhama talked about Dramatic Performances Act 1876 and Parsi Theatre. She highlighted through banned plays of Agha Hashar Kashmiri, Babu Buddhichandra Madhur, and Narayan Prasad Betab how the Parsi theater communicated the message of freedom using religious symbols, bypassing censorship laws in common people’s language.
Speaking last Vikas Shukla presented a new perspective to study the ‘Fansi Ank’ or Edition of Chand Magazine. The editorial written by Chatursen Shastri included a deep psycho-social analysis of capital punishment, criminal psychology, crime and punishment, the role of society in making criminals and the evolution of law. This edition is filled with the possibilities of analysis from different social science perspectives.
Delivering the session’s concluding remarks Chair Dr. Vishal Vikram Singh said that resistance and its implications are not new to our understanding but these things are not part of our common sense. We should revise these things more often to consolidate our sense of history.
The Seventh Session was chaired by Dr Prabhat Kumar. The Moderator of the session was Jitender Kumar Bera. Speaking first Mr.Vishal Kumar Singh talked about the proscribed 1938 Comilla Conference speech bySwami Sahajanand Saraswati and the role of farmers-laborers in every freedom struggle. Saraswati in his speech highlighted the need for an All-India Kisan Sabha to put a united front to emancipate the farmers and the downtrodden.
Speaking next Ajit Arya described the types of history writing such as orientalist, nationalist and theories like de-colonization prevalent during colonial times. He also analyzed Katherine Mayo’s Mother India taking the issues like education, health, nutrition, and superstition and drew parallels with the Present.
Speaking next Gaurav Singh enunciated the role of ‘Bhavishya’ edited by Ramrakh Singh Sehgal in journalism on female issues. The Magazine published special editions on every big issue on the horizon like- women, untouchables, migrants etc.
Anjana Joshi Toppo explained how selling and distributing newspapers, magazines, reading-listening nationalistic poetry, performing plays, Prabhat pheri etc. activities were part of the freedom struggle.
Krishna Bhadoria shed light on the proscribed songs. The content of these songs is deeply associated with the national movement like Swadesi, Gandhi Ji, social unity etc.
Speaking last, Pragya Kumari discussed the proscribed play of Pandey Bechan Sharma Ugra ‘Lal Kranti Ke Panje Mein’(1924). The theme of the play is the collapse of the Czar caused by the Bolshevik revolution but in a sense targeted British rule and called for revolution to end the Raj.
In the session’s concluding remarks Chair Dr. Prabhat Kumar highlighted Internationalism in late colonial writings. The intelligentsia was writing not only about London but also about Russia, Germany, and America. The Subaltern writers were writing about military experiences, migration, girmitiya etc. This was due to intellectual claustrophobia against empire-based modernity.
The Valedictory session included very memorable speeches. The session was chaired by Prof. Chaman Lal. The Moderator of the session was Dr Ashutosh Pandey.
Speaking First Shri Vijay Rai, eminent scholar and editor of ‘Lamhi’ Hindi Magazine, Lucknow gave accounts of proscribed literature and newspapers. He gave numerous examples like Pandit Sundarlal’s ‘British Raj in India’, Ravindranath Tagore’s ‘Russiar Chithi’, Sachindra Nath Sanyal’s ‘Bandi Jivan’ and Premchand’s story collection, Kishoridas Vajpai’s Grammar Book to demonstrate how British tried to curb freedom of speech through arbitrary laws. Rai also mentioned magazines like ‘Maharathi’ and ‘Hindupanch’. He also highlighted the importance of literature in revolutionary life with the example of Ashfaqulla Khan who used to write one or two lines of poetry in his last letters.
Prof. Vidya Sinha, Retd Professor, Department of Hindi, Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi spoke about proscribed folk songs of Bhojpuri language. She emphasized the historic value of these folk songs as they encompass authentic information about the national movements, economic policies, and Politicians on the ground level. The folk songs rely on oral communication so they were composed in specific tunes and became part of the memory. Prof Sinha gave examples of Manoranjan Prasad Singh’s ‘Firangia’, ‘Veer Kunwar Singh’ and one Jhoomari to highlight how these songs were doing the exact work as the educated mass to counter the Raj.
Dr Ravikant demonstrated the proscribed issues of The Inimitable ‘Bhavishya’ and discussed how Ramrakh Singh Sehgal became a symbol of journalistic integrity and dedication. ‘Bhavishya’ covered a wide range of topics like- poetry, mushairas, women’s participation in satyagraha, domestic violence, history, the Lahore conspiracy case, the Round Table conference, the Delhi conspiracy case, the election victory of so-called untouchables, important movements in World History, widow remarriage, nationalism and much more.
In the session’s concluding remarks Chair Prof Chaman Lal called ‘Bhavishya’ a ray of hope in the darkness. He congratulated the organizers for their initiative to bring back a significant part of our history.
The session was concluded with a vote of thanks by coordinator of the international conference Prof. Gajendra Pathak to the honorable Vice Chancellor,Prof. B.J.Rao, Dean,Prof. V.Krishna, All eminent scholors ,guests and members of the organizing teams.
The Valedictory session was followed by a marvelous cultural evening. The Proscribed Play of Laxman Singh ‘Kuli Pratha’ was performed by the Students and Research Scholars of the Hindi Department, UOH. The play was directed by Amarjeet Kumar and Shweta Yadav. This was followed by musical night. Malay Mandal and students of the Hindi Department performed proscribed songs that echoed the resistance and courage of our forefathers during the struggle for independence.
Left To Right: Shri Ashok Bhowmick Eminent Artist & Critic Delhi, Dr. Jyotish Joshi, Senior Fellow, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi, Dr. Isabela Huacuja Alonso, Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern South Asian and African Studies, Columbia University, New York, USA, Prof V. Krishna Dean, School of Humanities, Prof B.J. Rao. Vice Chancellor, Prof Chaman Lal, JNU, Shri Vijay Rai, Editor, Lamahi, Prof Gajendra Pathak, PI & Head, Department of Hindi, Dr. Ravikant Co- PI, CSDS New Delhi)
- Report by Manisha Mahesh Kumar, M.A Hindi 3rd Sem