Pardon us for some self-praise but HT was sharper even in British India

A series of articles about 1929 Assembly bombing had raised the hackles of the British government. Satyen Mohapatra reports.
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Updated on Oct 31, 2008 11:54 PM IST
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Hindustan Times | BySatyen Mohapatra, New Delhi

Here’s a bit of evidence that the Hindustan Times created ripples with its reporting even in British India.

There is a letter — the Government of India’s reaction to a report carried by Hindustan Times — that is part of an exhibition titled “The Trial of Bhagat Singh”. The exhibition, being held at the Supreme Court Museum, displays articles related to the trial of the freedom fighter after the assembly bomb case of 1929.

The confidential letter (dated April 25, 1929) was written to then chief secretary JP Thompson by then secretary to the Home Department (Political), Government of India, HW Emerson.

It said the Government of India had “noticed with some uneasiness the appearance in the Hindustan Times of a series of articles which seemed to reveal an unduly intimate knowledge, on the part of the paper’s representatives, of the course of the investigation into the Assembly bomb outrage”.

The letter went on to state “such articles had reported, among other matters, the movements and doings of individual police officers, the treatment or conduct of the accused, the theories held by the investigating staff and the various steps taken by the police to obtain evidence. A typical article is that appearing in the issue of the paper dated 22nd April”.

The report that the letter talked about is a banner headlined article “Attempts to Trace Bomb Accused’s Antecedents” that refers to police “groping in the dark” and its “wild goose chase” not meeting with any success.

The letter of the then Home secretary (Political) said, “Some inaccurate matter may have occasionally appeared, but much of what has been published is believed to be substantially correct.”

“It appears to the Government of India that the production of such articles suggests one of two explanations, the one being that a representative of the paper has been permitted by the investigating staff to be in close touch with itself and to know all that is going on, and the other that some Police officer, or officers, is supplying the paper with information acquired by him in the course of the investigation,” the letter said.

The letter shares space with brass inkpot bombs that were seized by the police in Lahore, at the exhibition. They were meant to be kept on the judge’s table and were designed so that an explosion would be triggered the moment the lid was opened.

There are bombshells seized by the CID from Lahore that too became part of the assembly bomb case.

Then there is the pen used by the judge to write the death sentence of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev in the Saunders murder case. Inscribed on the broken nib is the name of the manufacturer “The Lantern”, Hinks Wells & Co, Registered, Birmingham, United Kingdom.

A full sleeve khaki shirt with Italian collar that belonged to Bhagat Singh is also one of the can exhibits. The shirt has been marked ‘Bhagat Singh’ by the washerman to identify the owner of the shirt. The freedom fighters’ watch and a pair of shoes that he gave to his friend Jaidev Kapoor is also there.

A miniscule 1923 Hindi edition of Gita, which was read by Bhagat Singh in jail, with cabinet box can also be seen. This edition was published by Narayan Dutt Sehgal & Sons, Lahori Darwaza, Lahore.

All this apart, there is a page from the freedom fighter’s notebook with a sample of his handwriting. “Money is the honey of mankind” and “My strength is the strength of the oppressed, my courage is the courage of desperation” are the lines written on it.

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