Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, March 22
In the late 1920s, a young man carrying a message from his senior walks into a celebrated editor’s office in Lahore. He pleads that his comrade wants the editor to put fire into his editorials. Amused over the messenger’s bluntness, the editor remarked: “It is not a party organ.”
The young man was carrying Bhagat Singh’s message for The Tribune’s legendary editor Kalinath Ray. Ray had a love-hate relationship with the revolutionaries. Through his editorials, he criticised them over violence many times, but when it came to justice, under Kalinath Ray’s leadership, The Tribune not only stood against the empire but also wrote the ‘first draft of history’ by documenting developments in Lahore inch-by-inch.
Durga Das Khanna, who later served as chairman of the Punjab Legislative Council, was the young man who carried Bhagat Singh’s message to Ray. He recalled the incident in a memoir written for a souvenir published during The Tribune’s centenary celebrations in 1981. He wrote that the young revolutionaries felt that an emotional or passionate touch to the great and historic struggle for freedom was foreign to The Tribune’s columns… said it would not be correct to suggest that it did not vigorously espouse the people’s cause. “It was, indeed, one of the best vehicles for the propaganda of the message of freedom among the people.”
But Kalinath Ray’s ‘moderation’ didn’t enthuse the large mass of young men, particularly students. So Bhagat Singh asked Khanna to meet Ray and convey this to him. “Bhagat Singh, the great hero, once asked me to see Mr Ray and plead with him to put fire into his editorials. Mr Ray, however, felt amused and remarked: ‘Your friends must realise that The Tribune is not a party organ. It espouses the longings and passions of the people at large in an answerable way’.”
And with this, Khanna said, he thought he stood dismissed from his presence.
But soon all presumptions of the revolutionaries were to go wrong as The Tribune stood test of the hard times.
The magic of The Tribune in those days was such that it caught the imagination of young minds. The newspaper’s former editor Prem Bhatia recalled those days in the centenary souvenir: “The recollection of the first impact made on me by The Tribune is the image of a page in this newspaper in June 1929, which carried Bhagat Singh’s statement in court on the revolutionary course he and his colleagues had chosen for themselves for the liberation of India. ‘The bomb was necessary’, the statement thundered, ‘to awaken England from her dreams… are sole purpose was to make the deaf hear and to give the heedless a timely warning…’”
“This historical declaration was given in The Tribune a prominence which reflected much courage as also, indirectly, the newspaper’s identification with the movement for freedom.”
The Tribune was the first newspaper to publish a splendid photograph of Bhagat Singh, taken at Lahore Central College in 1924, just days after his arrest.
Historian VN Datta noted in his book “The Tribune: A Witness to History”, the Central Assembly Bomb Case for which Bhagat Singh and Batukeshwar Dutt were sentenced to life imprisonment, began to figure prominently in The Tribune from May 1929 onwards. “While giving a blow-by-blow account of the court proceedings, The Tribune commended the ‘exemplary attitude’ of the accused who were brought to the court handcuffed, which they resisted.”
“The Tribune admired the patriotic spirit of Bhagat Singh and his associates in throwing two bombs in the Central Assembly but it disapproved of the use of violent means tor gaining political end.”
The paper not only supported revolutionaries’ cause, but also employed comrades of revolutionaries such as Avinash Chander Bali, who later served as the News Editor.
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