KRISHNA PATRIKA – A CENTENARY TRIBUTE
Prof. K. Subramanyam
The press played a glorious role in the Indian Freedom Movement. Several newspapers both in English and the regional languages, in different parts of the country, prepared the people for the freedom struggle by instilling among them patriotic fervour, indomitable courage and the spirit of heroic self-sacrifice.
In the Andhra region, among the Telugu journals, the Krishna Patrika played a prominent role in the freedom struggle. This year happens to be the centenary year of the foundation of the Krishna Patrika. It is an occasion to recall the self-less services of the nationalist journal, to the cause of India’s freedom. It is also an occasion for the people of the post-Independence generation of India to pay their tribute to a journal which relentlessly campaigned for the liberation of the country from the foreign yoke.
Krishna Patrika was one of the two newspapers in Telugu, which were started in the early years of the 20th century and were fortunate to survive till the country became independent. The other paper was Andhra Patrika. It is unfortunate that both these papers are not existing now, the former as a Daily and the latter as a Weekly.
A unique feature of the Krishna Patrika was that it was started by a District Association. Its first issue came out on 2nd February, 1902, in accordance with a resolution of the Krishna District Association, passed in the year 1899. The Journal claimed that no other political association in the country was managing a newspaper for the purpose of political education. In 1909 the Krishna District Association gave up its ownership of the paper.
The man who was responsible for the success of the Krishna Patrika, in earning for itself the admiration and respect of millions of Andhras was Mutnuri Krishna Rao, who for a long time was its editor. He was one of the founders of the paper and from 1902 was associated with it as its Sub-Editor. In 1907 he became its editor and continued to serve the journals in that capacity, till he died in 1945. Krishna Rao was an institution by himself, known for his scholastic proficiency and oratorical brilliance. As an intellectual, nationalist and great writer he was a towering personality in the Andhra region during his times. He invited the great nationalist leader of Bengal, B.C.Pal to tour Andhra during the Vandemataram movement in 1907 and Pal made a great impact on the Andhras. However, in later years Krishna Rao did not involve himself in active politics, but many national leaders considered him as their political Guru. Even though he was a supporter of the Congress and its policies, he kept himself aloof from that organisation, to devote his entire time and attention to the Krishna Patrika.
During India’s Freedom Struggle, particularly in the early phases, weekly journalism, played a more important part than daily journalism. Daily newspapers were very few and were not as popular as some weeklies. Krishna Patrika was a prominent nationalist weekly in the country, though it was started as a fortnightly. It enjoyed a position of preeminence among the political weeklies in the Andhra region. But for a short stint as biweekly it remained a political weekly throughout the period of the struggle for freedom.
The Krishna Patrika, carried on publicity for all the phases of India’s struggle for freedom, like, the Vandemataram movement, the Home-Rule movement, the Non-Cooperation Movement, the Civil-Disobedience Movement and the Quit India Movement. It provided the leaders and active participants in the freedom struggle, a lot of material, which they used against the British Government. To the common man, the material published in the journal, was a source of inspiration, which promoted patriotism among the people.
The Krishna Patrika influenced not only the urban educated elite but also rural masses. During certain periods, the journal was sent free of cost to all schools in the rural areas and its contents were read out not only to the students but also to the villagers. That increased the reach of the journal, extending its influence to the masses also.
Many contemporary leaders who were in their youth during the Freedom Struggle acknowledged the impact of Krishna Patrika. Prof. N.G. Ranga, Bezwada Gopala Reddy, Gottepati Brahmayya, Tenneti Viswanadham and others stated that the Krishna Patrika and Andhra Patrika influenced them in giving up their studies to take active part in the Freedom Struggle. The confidential reports of the British Government, on the contemporary newspapers, mention about the “pernicious” influence of the Krishna Patrika and the Andhra Patrika on the people.
The influence, popularity and the services of the Krishna Patrika and Andhra Patrika, so much impressed the people of Andhra, that they honoured the two papers in 1929. Celebrations to honour the people were organised on 8th and 9th September, 1929, at Vijayawada. N.V.L. Narasimha Rao, Freedom Fighter, was the Chairman of the Reception Committee for the Celebrations. An Address, eulogising the services of the papers was presented to the editors of the two papers. Konda Venkatappayya speaking on that occasion declared, ‘those two papers have been able to inculcate among the people, courage, spirit of sacrifice and intense patriotism’. Certain Associations in Hyderabad like the Andhra Jana Sangham also met in Hyderabad and passed a resolution praising the services of Andhra Patrika and Krishna Patrika.
Kanuparti Varalakshmamma, a freedom fighter and social reformer, stated that many people left schools, resigned their jobs, faced the lathi blows, lost their property and entered the jails after reading the contents of Krishna Patrika.
Like many papers of those days, the Krishna Patrika had to face many financial troubles. It survived due to contributions from philanthropists, zamindars and other rich people who had a patriotic bent of mind. The editor and other staff had to live on meagre salaries, and sometimes they had to live even without salaries. Shri Piratla Venkateswarlu revived Krishna Patrika and made it a daily in Hyderabad. We appreciate his respect for the paper and his zeal in publishing it. Very recently, its centenary was celebrated in Delhi in quiet dignity with the blessings of Prime Minister Vajpayee.
The best tribute that can be paid to the Krishna Patrika is for the press of the country to work with missionary zeal in the cause of the nation. The patriotic fervour of the Krishna Patrika and the sacrifices made by the people associated with it, should inspire journalists of the country in particular and all others in general, to work with determination for the progress and greatness of the country.