As the British rallied popular opinion, funds and other support for its war efforts in the 1940s, they tried to downplay the resistance efforts within India. This included censoring the press–not allowing stories of the satyagraha struggle to appear in the news. So even as individuals continued individual acts of resistance, there was no coverage worth mentioning. Even Gandhi’s own publication would be censored if it addressed acts of civil disobedience.
Gandhi was never without a solution and with his experience, he knew that this might be only the first move of censorship, which might later censor more movement news, including public statements. He called on all satyagrahis to take to walking, village to village, to share news and announcements.
Here’s what he said:
“This does not mean what boys used to do in the past, namely, trumpeting about of bits of news. The idea here is of telling my neighbor what I have authentically heard. This no government can overtake or suppress. It is the cheapest newspaper yet devised, and it defies the wit of the government, however clever it may be.”
He went on, paying attention to the power of the media, by which lies can be spread and tensions increased or truths can be told and relationships built:
“Let these walking newspapers be sure of the news they give. They should not indulge in any idle gossip. They should make sure of the source of information and they will find that the public gets all the information that they need without opening their morning newspaper, which, they should know, will contain garbled, one-sided information, and therefore not worth the trouble of reading.”
While it might have seemed at first that Gandhi was acquiescing to repression, he was actually escalating his constructive action in the face of increased repression, on the one hand, while following his principle of “non-embarrassment” by refraining from open defiance while the British were preoccupied by the war efforts. At the same time, he was also creatively strengthening the satyagraha movement by giving individual satyagrahis greater responsibility and asking them to build stronger relationships in various communities by performing a valued and needed function: (nonviolence) news bearers. This was before social media and hashtag activism, but it does not outdate it in the least. What happens when we go “offline” and share the (good) news with those around us? Let’s try it out.
Become a news source, on-and-off line, for your communities. Take into mind Gandhi’s instructions.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com