Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Annie Besant

Annie Besant came into prominence in the political field with Home Rule as India's goal and that happened in the second decade of the 20th century.
She purchased the Madras, Standard, changed its name to New India and published it from July 14, 1914, under her own editorial control. She was also editing the Commonweal, a weekly paper, first published in January of that year. In 1916, she started her Home Rule League six months after Tilak had founded his League in Maharashtra.
The New India was a fiery champion of Home Rule for India and Annie Besant's forthright attacks on the Government of the day enhanced the popularity of the paper. When proceedings were instituted against the paper during the Governorship of Lord Pentland, she appeared before the High Court herself and argued the first case for her paper. Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar argued the other cases on behalf of New India. The New India was asked to furnish a security of Rs. 2,000 in the first instance which was forfeited and a second security of Rs. 10,000 was demanded of the paper.
Before and during the internment of Annie Besant, Mr. P.K. Telang was chosen to be the editor and he continued the paper with the assistance of Arundale, B.P. Wadia, Dr. C.P. Ramaswami Aiyer. The circulation of the New India increased substantially during the period of internment. Annie Besant, both personally and in the editorial columns of the paper, set her face against Gandhi's non-cooperation and satyagraha campaign. After her well known saying that brickbats (from the agitators during Gandhi's mass campaigns) cannot but be met with bullets, the circulation of New India declined with a crash.
Annie Besant favoured the total repeal of the Newspaper (Incitement to Offences) Act of 1908 as well as Indian Press Act of 1910 and was of the opinion that the Press and Registration of Books Act should be amended to require a declaration by the editor. She was a strong critic of direct action and of Gandhi's writings in Young India.
In sum, Annie Bessant stood for the Indian cause. She made India her second home. She came to India in 1893 at the age of 46 and engaged herself in the noble task of social reconstruction, already started by prominent Indian leaders: she became an added force to the social movement. She became so popular that she was elected President of Indian National Congress in 1917. Soon after her arrival in 1893, she lectured extensively all over Southern India. In 1894, she covered the Northern Region on a similar campaign. Her topics invariably were related to the Hindu religion and the rich Indian culture and she tried to infuse in her audiences the lessons of fearlessness and truth. She settled at Varanasi (then called Benaras) in 1895.

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