Friday, 22 December 2017

Benjamin Horniman, famous British journalist and India's freedom fighter

Benjamin Guy Horniman http://oldphotosbombay.blogspot.in
 Through out the British rule in the early East India Company's administration till 1857 and later directly under the British Crown (Raj), there were  many
English men - both officials and non officials who were sympathetic to Indians' aspiration for Free India and Self-rule. The humiliation suffered by the early freedom fighters was too much; plundering, looting and depredation under the British continued  with no end. Though countless Englishmen and 
other foreigners living in India abhorred the way the  British treated the Indians and the  social and cultural injustice inflicted upon them, many of them were reluctant to come out and be outspoken.  However, one fact that impressed them very much was Indian natives' tolerance and forbearance. Among the English friends of India during the freedom struggle, some shone like  bright stars in the firmament and stood thick and thin by the Indian leaders. Allan Octavian Hume was one of the founders of the Indian National Congress. Dr. Annie Besant was the founder of Home Rule movement of  India and Charles Freer “Dinabandhu” Andrews worked for the welfare of the laborers, railway workers and other  downtrodden (untouchables) .
Among them, one Englishman chose a different path to fight for the Indian cause. His weapon was mightier than the sharp double edged dagger  with which he tore the mask of the British rulers and exposed their ugly faces - mean and repressive. The weapon he wielded was his pen and his area of operation was journalism. The English man was none other than  Horniman, a journalist of repute.  His pen worked overtime whenever the British officials committed glaring mistakes and injustice.  His aim was to free India from the oppressive British rule that thrived on exploitation and and depredation of Indian resources.
  Benjamin Guy Horniman (1873 – 1948) was a British journalist and editor of the Bombay Chronicle, well- known for his advocacy Indians' self-rule and his support of India's freedom from the British yoke. He was harsh on subjugation, enslavement and servitude of India's native by the British. 

Horniman was born in Dove Court, Sussex, England, and his parents were William Horniman, Paymaster-in-Chief in the Royal Navy, and Sarah. Educated at Portsmouth Grammar School and later at a military academy, he started out as a rookie  journalist at
the Portsmouth Evening Mail in 1894. Before coming to India in 1906, he joined  the Statesman in Calcutta as its news editor after gaining considerable experience in journalistic work with many English dailies in England, including, the Daily Chronicle and the Manchester Guardian. While in Kolkata, he developed close contacts with well-known Indians and the resentment expressed by them over the oppressive British misrule drew his attention very much. Being a man of scruples, he was very much saddened the way British officials handling the Indian subjects. The sight of people suffering humiliation and racial disparity evoked a deep sense of injustice in him. He decided ti stage a crusade against his own despotic countrymen. Briefly he moved over to Delhi Which became British India's capital.  Pherozeshah Mehta founded a daily 
the Bombay Chronicle in Bombay  and Horniman in 1913 became its editor at Mehta's request. The newspaper was popular among the educated natives for its tirades against the colonial misrule, corruption and repressive administrators. The paper openly lent hands to  the freedom movement under Horniman. He became more Indian than Indians as a freedom fighter  and gave inspiring speeches that made the Indians think about "Free India". In his impressive articles never had he failed to support for  complete freedom from Britain and parliamentary democracy for India. On occasions, he demanded a decent and  better life for the Harijans (‘dalits’) and the backward classes who suffered discrimination and humiliation before caste Hindus across India.

The Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (13 April 1919) under the command of  Gen. Reginald Dyer at Amritsar, Punjab was the worst injustice  committed by the British Military under Gen. Dyer and the British Raj wanted to cover it up with the help of British press. They  tried to cook up a story to pin the blame on the natives. Horniman  never sat quiet and exposed the true story of the massacre to the global audience  with real photos.The world leaders and media condemned this treacherous military action that led to an inquiry by the British parliament.

Horniman was arrested for his news report on the massacre and criticism of the colonial government and deported to London. There,he continued to criticize the British India government and the Crown. While in India, he  also interacted with other freedom fighters and activists. When Anne Besant founded Home Rule, Horniman served as vice president of the Home Rule League and  supported  the  Satyagraha campaign against the Rowlatt Act in 1919 through his writings in the Bombay Chronicle and at public meetings. Under Gandhiji's command,  Horniman became its vice-president.

Many Indian journalists  who worked with Benjamin Horniman became distinguished journalists. He was a mentor to some  Indian journalists, including, the legendary Pothen Joseph, who served as editor of several newspapers in India. Horniman's association with R.K. Karangia, editor of the Blitz was quite well-known. As a matter of fact in 1941 Horniman, along with Russi Karanjia and Dinkar Nadkarni, founded the tabloid Blitz. This tabloid was quite famous in India till 1960s. 

Horniman Circle Mumbai, India Trans India Travels
Horniman's death in 1948 was  mourned in India, particularly, by those who had close relationship with him. The Elphinstone Circle in Mumbai was named after him in his honor for his selfless and dedicated contribution toward India's freedom despite his being an Englishman. Throughout his  career as a journalist, he was known for his unbiased and  straight forward reporting. 

 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B._G._Horniman