A hundred years ago May 31, 19721 Archives

From the Archives (May 31, 1921): Mrs. Besant and the Press Act

The Puritans according to Macaulay condemned bull-baiting not because it gave pain to the bull but because it gave pleasure to the spectator. Mrs. Besant apparently shares this mental characteristic for her main reason for urging the repeal of the Press Act is not that papers are unjustly harassed but that it proves ineffective against offenders like Mr. Gandhi. The following passage from her memorandum, quoted by the Simla correspondent of the Times of India, will enable our readers to form a clearer conception of the nature of Mrs. Besant’s fight for freedom of speech and writing. “Repeal of the Press Act is expedient just now, partly as a reasonable concession to Indian sentiment and partly because the law is now inoperative against big offenders, while it is still used against little known publicists who inflame but a small circle. The discrimination shown in the second case has become a public scandal. Mr. Gandhi in Young India is allowed every week to excite hatred and contempt against Government in language compared with which criticisms of Government which have ruined many papers are harmless; he is even allowed to approach perilously near to high treason by saying that he would ‘in a sense’ assist an Afghan invasion of India.”

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