Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Native Opinion. Civil & Military Gazette. January 2 1886

One of the curious aspects of the grammar of empire is the idea that "Indian Opinion" and the "Indian Papers," in the pages of Civil & Military Gazette, refers to British India. Indians themselves are always "natives."

Thus, "native opinion":

"H.M." writes to the Bombay Gazette regarding "the defects of the British administration so exaggerated by Calcutta native papers, and in one or two books that have lately attained notoriety." Some of our readers may know to how great an extent the sentiments of "H.M." are shared by other natives of India, who deplore the wild excesses of the Native Press. It has long been a subject of wonder to us as to whom these occasionally outrageous attacks, and this constant, carping malevolence, are intended to please; and on what model they are based. That they disgust a very large section of the readers of these native papers--we mean among the natives themselves--is certain. Such readers greatly regret that they should be represented by these organs, which are naturally supposed to represent them, in such a light before the British public. They deplore that they should be represented as utterly ugrateful for benefits, utterly callous, incapable of discernment, filled only with envy, malice, and hatred. They are helpless; news they must have and news in its cheapest form: so they support these papers which they dislike, and which they feel to be doing them incaclculabe mischief. There are no doubt others among the readers of the native papers who enjoy spicy writing and slashing attacks, without troubling themselves about either the matter or the results of these diatribes. But the existing native journals will find to their cost that these clients are the minoirty, whenever respectable newspapers shall arise to compete with them on equal terms of price for the support of the native public.

On what model are the native papers based? Their editors can hardly be acquainted with the Jacobin or the Pere Duchesne of the French revolutionary era; not even, probably, with the Intransigeant or similar journals of the present day. They can hardly have formed their style upon the Louisville Roarer or the Arkansas Tomahawk; for such flowers of American journalism have for years been extinct. We can only suppose that they have taken in sober earnest,that they have taken in sober earnest, as their models, those caricatures of the provincial journalism of England fifty years ago, which Dickens has presented in the pages of Pickwick. Now, in a state of society, such as existed in Paris in the end of the last century, or in the western States of America in the early part of the present one, such writing as that of the journals mentioned was excusable. In Farance these papers were address to a society just enfranchised from a grinding oppression, which did not know how to ue its newly acquired liberty. In America they were written as suited a wild, lawless, ruffianly population, among whom liberty only meant license; and law did not exist. Which of these conditions exists in India, that the native Press should consider itself justified in endeavouring to stir up evil passions, and to inflame mens' minds against the only Government which, during two centuries past, has been capable of affording to their distracted country peace, order and prosperity; against a Government which is doing its best to educate them into fitness for political liberty, as it has already given them entire social and domestic liberty? These native journals are themselves the offspring of the civilisation bestowed upon India by that Government; they owe their existence to the liberty conferred; and the use which they make of the education which that Government has afforded, must be called unpatriotic as well as ungrateful, even if it could be admitted that an excuse existed for their conduct in existing unredressed grievance.

[...] Of course, "H.M." will be furiously attacked by the native Press; as Sir Madhava Rao is, or as Raja Siva Prosad is. But the proof of the justice of his assertion is in the very native Press which will attack him -- supposing that Press to represent, as it asserts, modern though in India. If civilization and education in India have had as yet no better result than this, India must be centuries off the capability of self-government. 

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