The first session of the Indian National Congress was scheduled to be held at Poona, but owing to an outbreak of epidemic in that town, the venue was shifted to Bombay, where the session took place in December, 1885. The second session of the Congress was held at Calcutta in 1886. This was attended by Madan Mohan Malaviya in the company of his teacher and guide Pandit Adityaram Bhattacharya. The Calcutta Congress turned out to be an important event in Malaviyaji’s life, because his performance at the session made him known throughout India and marked the beginning of his role as a national leader.
Among those who were greatly impressed by Madan Mohan Malaviya’s performance at the Calcutta Congress was Raja Rampal Singh of Kalakankar. The Raja was a large hearted person and unlike many of the landlords and zamindars of those days, was a zealous patriot. He had just returned from England, and the spirit of freedom which he initiated in that country, inspired him to start a Hindi weekly to propagate the values of freedom and liberalism in his own country. He wanted to convert the weekly into a daily paper and was looking around for a suitable person to edit it.
He met Malaviyaji and offered him the job. He said: “Leave your teachership and edit Hindustan and thus serve your country. I shall pay you Rs. 200 in place of Rs. 60 you are getting right now.” It was an attractive offer, but Malaviyaji had to think twice before accepting the offer. He was an orthodox Brahman nurtured and bred in a strictly orthodox Brahmanical and Vaishnavite way of life which was different from the way of life which was very different from the way of life led by Raja Saheb. Though Malaviyaji had a great and sincere yearning for serving his motherland through journalism, he found it difficult to fit in comfortably into the pattern of life at Kalakankar. After a great deal of deliberation, he sent word to Raja Saheb, “I am willing to accept the editorship of English and Hindi daily Hindustan on one condition that you would never call me to your presence after you have taken a drink.” The Raja was determined to have Malaviyaji at any cost. He accepted the condition. Malaviyaji resigned his post as teacher in July 1887 and began editing ‘Hindustan’ at Kalakankar. The Sunday edition was still published under the editorship of Raja himself. Malaviyaji used to live on week-days at Kalakankar, which was only thirty miles away from Prayag and spend his Sundays at home.
The Hindustan earned its popularity under the editorship of Malaviyaji. His fearless leading articles and bold editorial comments on all matters relating to the social, economic and political problems of the day were widely read. The most attractive feature of the paper was that it was held in great regard both by the public as well as the Government, though it never hesitated in criticizing those policies of the Government which were against public interests. Malaviyaji was judicious and honest critic. He never yielded to anyone in taking a stand for right cause. The great virtue of his writing was that he never used abusive, foul, satirical or ironical language against any person or institution, and always maintained a high level of editorial dignity and decorum. His notes, comments, criticism and suggestions were always practical and constructive and he took great care to ensure that his paper did not become a tool in the hands of any political party or creed. He had equally good command over both Hindi and English, and his leading articles and comments were read with attention for their liberty merits also. He had adopted an easy style in Hindi which came to be known among the Hindi scholars as ‘Malaviyaji ki Hindi’. The characteristic feature of his style was that it was simple and easily comprehensible, and avoided the use of highly Sanskritised or pedantic words.
Malaviyaji considered journalism as an art. He introduced new traditions into Indian journalism, laid down the foundation of the Hindi press, and made it a medium of service to the Indian people. He always worked and fought for the freedom of the press, originated the All India Editors’ Conference and trained and inspired a large number of great editors.
Malaviyaji was a fastidious proof-leader, and never allowed a single word to pass unobserved and uncorrected. He was very thorough in reading proofs and in making corrections, even at the very last stage to ensure highest standard in language, style and contents. He maintained that the business of the newspaper is not merely to convey news but also to convey it in the right perspective and on correct and easily comprehensible language. According to him, the business of a paper was also to teach, train and guide the readers to think on right lines without fear or favour.
He never deviated nor allowed others to deviate from the policy of the paper he edited or managed. Once, many years later, when the editor of his paper Abhyaudaya, Pandit Krishna Kant, wrote an article which, in some respects, deviated from the policy of the paper and also from the high standard of journalism set by Malaviyaji, he wrote the following touching letter to the editor:
“Last night, I dreamt that the Abhyudaya Press was on fire. But the Abhyudaya issue which I have just received, has given greater pains than what I experienced by seeing the press on fire in my dream. Perhaps, I would not have felt greater grief if the Abhyudaya Press would have been reduced to ashes before the leading article of this issue was printed. If I could atone the sin by closing Abhyudaya, I would have done so immediately. It was not proper for you to publish an article during my life-time which may expose me to public censure and put me to shame.”
Malaviyaji edited the Hindustan continuously for two-an-a-half year and gained popularity and name for both the paper as well as for himself. One day, however, it so happened that Raja Rampal Singh wanted to consult Malaviyaji on some important matter, he called Malaviyaji to his room. On entering the room, Malaviyaji perceived that the Raja had taken a drink. He reminded Raja Saheb of the terms of his employment and told him that, as Raja Saheb had broken the contract, it would not be possible for him to remain in his service any longer. Raja Saheb was not at all prepared for this bolt from the blue. He was stunned and tried his utmost to persuade Malaviyaji from taking such a rash step. But Malaviyaji was a man of principles and firm will and no amount of persuasion and allurement could be of any avail, Malaviyaji’s elder also made an effort to bring him round but he remained adamant. When Raja Saheb lost all hope of retaining Malaviyaji in Kalakankar, he agreed to let him go on one condition, that Malaviyaji would take to the study of law. He promised to bear all expenses. Malaviyaji promised to consider that suggestion and left Kalakankar in 1886.
The moment he returned him, he was offered the co-editorship of a leading English daily, The Indian Opinion. The paper had the reputation of being bold and fearless. Malaviyaji’s association with it added to its reputation. The paper later got incorporated with the Advocate Lucknow and Malaviyaji’s association with it, in one form or another, continued for a long time.
The cause dearest to Malaviyaji at that time was that of establishing a Hindu University on the bank of Ganga. To propagate the idea of the University, Malaviyaji thought of starting a Hindi weekly. The weekly Abhyudaya was brought into being for this purpose in the year 1907. For two years, Malaviyaji himself edited the paper. Along with advocating the proposal for the Banaras Hindu University, it devoted it columns to the other burning problems of the day. When Malaviyaji could not give full time and attention to the journal, the burden of editing it fell on the shoulders of a series of distinguished editors including Purushottamdas Tandon. Finally, it was taken over by Pandit Krishna Kant, Malaviyaji’s nephew, who remained its editor for a pretty long time. It remained a weekly until 1915, when it was converted into a daily.
The boldness and outspokenness of Abhyudaya brought into frequent conflict with the British Government. More than once, it had to pay heavy fines and suspend publication for months together. Malaviyaji knew that it was the price that had to be paid for the freedom of the press. This freedom had to be jealously guarded. He took a leading part in convening the All India Editor’s Conference. It met for the first time under the Presidentship of Raja Rampal Singh in April, 1908. In the capacity of the President of the Reception Committee, Malaviyaji said: “The Government is going to introduce the Bill like the Press Act and the Newspapers Act to make their repressive policies more widely effective. This will bring the freedom of the press in our country to an end. If the editors and the journalists of India do not face this dangerous move badly, the future of Indian papers will be doomed.”
The name of Lord Curzon shall ever remain fresh in the memory of Indians for his impudent policy of slicing Bengal into two parts which sparked off such a furious revolution that at one time the very existence of the British Government in India seemed to be endangered. The whole of India rose in defiance against the British Government. The necessity of starting a daily English paper to formulate and express the feelings of patriotic Indians became urgent, and so by the efforts of Malaviyaji, The Leader came into existence on 24th October 1909. Malaviyaji’s association with The Leader can be best described in his own words:
“The late Pandit Ayudhya Nath had spent a large amount of money on the publication of The Indian Herald. The paper went on working for three consecutive years when finally it had to be discontinued due to financial crisis. This was another reason why The Leader came into existence. I had decided to give up my legal practice and keep myself aloof from public service so that I may find sufficient time to devote to the cause of the Banaras Hindu University. I then thought that if I leave public service without establishing a suitable daily paper to ventilate the feelings of the people, I shall be failing in my duty towards my province. I talked this matter over to many of my colleagues, friends and associates and they readily agreed to invest their money for the same. We were able to collect Rs. 24,000 in the beginning. The amount was not sufficient enough to ensure smooth running of a daily paper but I was confident of the assistance promised by my friends and my expectations came out to be true. You all must be remembering that our friend Motilal started The Independent during the days of non-cooperation movement in order to propagate his own ideas and opinions and also those views which were not in consonance with the views expressed in The Leader. The paper cost him about 2,50,000 rupees, of which, Pandit Motilal contributed 1,00,000 and Shri Jaykar Rs. 50,000. It had been admitted even by the Government that The Leader always advocated the right causes and was not led by any dogmas or prejudices. Serious doubts were harboured by many a people about its fate, so much so that The Pioneer went to the extent of remarking ironically that The Leader was so good that it would meet an early end. But in spite of all odds, The Leader withstood the tides of times and is serving the people with credit and credence.”
The credit for giving life and vitality to the The Leader goes entirely to the efforts of Malaviyaji. When within a period of one-and-a-half year of its existence, the paper ran out of funds and the directors resolved to liquidate its assets and liabilities, Malaviyaji was busy in collecting funds for the Banaras Hindu University. Still the directors thought it wise to bring this alarming situation to his knowledge. When Malaviyaji heard of this, he immediately said: “The Leader will not die.” His timely assistance saved The Leader from an untimely closure. Malaviyaji at once approached his wife and said, “Don’t think you have four sons only. This daily The Leader is your fifth son. It is in a moribund state on a account lack of funds. Can I see it falling into the jaws of death as father?” his wife was moved by her husband’s words, sold all her ornaments for thirty five hundred rupees and gave it to her husband. Then went to others for donation and said in that context, “I will die but I will not beg for my own self but I will not feel ashamed of begging for the good of others.” Thenceforward The Leader took steady and progressive strides. Pandit Motilal Nehru was the first President of Newspaper Ltd. which was publishing The Leader. Malaviyaji followed suit and remained its President for ten consecutive years. He was followed by illustrious figures like Tej Bahadur Sapru and Sachhidanand Sinha. The Leader got its own buildings constructed in 1926 and bought its own new printing machines from abroad and a Hindi daily entitled Bharat was also added to its publication programme. It is not less painful to note that the directors have recently discontinued The Leader which was so dear to Malaviyaji.
When Shri Sachhidanand Sinha of Bihar started his Hindustan Review in 1893 and the Indian People in 1903 he was assisted by Malaviyaji.
A weekly Urdu paper entitled Swarajya appeared in 1909 at Prayag. During the ten months of its existence, eight of its editors were tried for sedition. Malaviyaji assisted Swarajya fainancially, prompted Shri Purushottamdas Tandon to appear for the editors in the Court, and supported the families of the editors when they were lodged in the jail.
Some of his friends did not like his association with the editor of an Urdu weekly, and complained to him about it. But Malaviyaji replied to them calmly, “Whatever I have done, I have done to establish Freedom of Press in this country. If I had not done this, I would have been accused of being a party for end of freedom of thought. As regards helping these young men, how could I refrain from doing it. Can a father abandon his sons merely for difference of opinion and specially those sons, whose patriotism is as brilliant as glittering gold. Let me not be accused of the offence of assassinating Abhimanyu like Dronacharya.”
Malaviyaji was also responsible for sponsoring the publication of Maryada, a Hindi monthly, which was in the nature of a general review of political, social and literary events.
Malaviyaji was extremely religious and combined in his character and conduct all that was best in Hindu culture. From his very boyhood he felt the necessity of imparting religious education to the young. So, on 20 July 1933, on the auspicious Guru Purnima day, he started his well-known weekly Sanatan Dharma. The journal carried articles on science, fine arts, politics, history, economics, philosophy, literature, religion and sociology. Besides, it published regular articles on such socio-religious subjects as cow-protection, Hindu traditions and ethics.