The erstwhile Madras Presidency, particularly Chennai, provided a very good arena for the play of socio-political forums in the later part of 19th century and early 20th century and the press became an extremely important part of the freedom struggle, N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu group of publications, said on Saturday.

Referring to social and political developments in the country generally and Madras Presidency in particular during the period, Mr. Ram said Chennai was known not just for its association with the freedom struggle but also for the movements for social emancipation, reforms and amelioration.

Seminar

He was inaugurating a seminar, “Colonial Madras: The city and its history,” sponsored by the Indian Council of Historical Research and organised by the Department of History of the Pachaiyappa's College here.

Tracing the origins and development of the press, Mr Ram explained how diversity and pluralism characterised Chennai. Both in Tamil and English, a number of dailies and periodicals had come up. “You cannot have an independent press unless there is space for divergent opinions,” he noted.

Mr. Ram called for further research into the political and social developments that the Madras Presidency witnessed in the later part of 19th century and early part of 20th century.

Courteous to each other

He said that despite sharp political ideological divide, Congress leader Kamaraj and Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam founder Annadurai were dignified and courteous to each other. This tradition stood the city in very good stead and this should be brought back. “Whatever your views, respect the other person.” A.Chandrasekaran, former professor of the Institute of Distance Education, University of Madras, underlined the importance of the study of history. R. Rukmani, principal-in-charge of the College, recalled the history and role of the institution in catering to educational needs of the city.

Among those who spoke were T. R.Ramachandran and N.K. Narayenan, former Principals of the College, and C. Thiruvenkadam, Head of the Department of History.

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