[Yojana Archive] Literature defying the British Raj

August 2022: “Azadi Literature”

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  • Colonial administration tried to discourage the ideas against the established system.
  • Despite the suppression, human civilizations and culture have developed along with the freedom of ideas and resistance.
  • Literature against colonial rule reflects the zeal for freedom of the country and sacrifices to achieve the goal and suffering in the process.

Various moves by the British to suppress the Indian Press/Literature

Before 1857:

  1. The First Censorship of Press Act, 1799 by Lord Wellesley
  2. Licensing Regulations Act , 1823
  3. Press Act/Charles Metcalfe Act, 1835
  4. Licensing Act, 1857
  5. Lala Lajpat Rai was sent to jail in Burma under Regulation III of 1818

After 1857:

  1. Several newspapers in various Indian languages were banned or penalized during the 1857 war.
  2. Mirza Bedar Bakht, an editor of the ‘Payam-e-Azadi’ paper was publicly hanged for supporting the war.
  3. Sedition law was introduced in 1870 under Section 124A of IPC.
  4. Sedition law was used to silence the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Bal Gangadhar Tilak.
  5. Bal Gangadhar Tilak was charged with sedition for exciting disaffection through an article he published in the Kesari. The Lokmanya was sentenced to imprisonment for 12 months.
  6. The Vernacular Press Act (VPA) of 1878 was designed to ‘better control’ the vernacular press and effectively punish and repress seditious writing.
  7. The Official Secrets Act, 1898, Indian Post Office Act, and Indian Customs Act, Indian Press Act, 1910, all controlled the books and publications.

Examples of Literature against Established Rule

  • Numerous poets and writers have written about several incidents of freedom struggle such as – 1857 War of Independence, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre, 1922 Chauri Chaura incident, 1927 Kakori robbery, and 1942 Quit India Movement.
  • ‘Sare Jahan Se Acha’, an Urdu language patriotic song for children written by poet Muhammad Iqbal in the ghazal poetry of Urdu Poetry. The poem was published in the weekly journal ‘Ittehad’ on 16 August 1904.
  • ‘Jhansi ki Rani’ by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan.
  • ‘Pushp Ki Abhilasha’ by Makhanlal Chaturvedi.
  • ‘Jhande Ka Geet’ by Shyamlal Gupt Parshad.
  • Revolutionaries like Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan wrote several poems expressing the innermost expressions of revolutionaries against British rule.
  • ‘Bharath Prashasthi’ by Rabindranath Tagore.
  • ‘Pyara Hindostan Hamara’ by poet Hamdam depicts Hindu-Muslim Unity during the freedom struggle.


  • The press played a notable role in the freedom struggle.
  • They helped in the dispersal of revolutionary ideas which helped in forming an opposition against the British government.
  • The newspapers also helped in spreading awareness about the extreme measures taken by the colonial government which further incited protests and revolutionary acts against the British.

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