Throughout its 123-year run, the Amrita Bazar Patrika was regarded as a leading voice against an unjust and unfair system.
The very inception of the paper, in fact, was rooted in revolt and revolution — in 1868, founder Sisir Kumar Ghosh launched the Patrika to report on the status of peasant farmers and the Indigo Revolt of 1859.
In 1878, Lord Lytton passed the Vernacular Press Act to curtail press freedom and criticism of the government.
“It was understood that the blow was aimed mainly at the Patrika,” wrote Srikanta Ray in Bengal Celebrities (1906).
Sisir Kumar was approached before the passage of the Act by diplomat Sir Ashley Eden, who offered government patronage in exchange for editorial content vetted before publishing.
The editor’s answer had been instantaneous no. “Your Honour,” he remarked, “there ought to be at least one honest journalist in the land.”
Through the course of its run, the Patrika saw — and survived — many attempts to quash press freedom.
From the Partition of Bengal and Indian perspective on both World Wars to the famine of 1943 and influx of migration, the Patrika covered it all.
In later years, Sisir’s son Tushar Kanti Ghosh loyally and bravely carried on this legacy, earning the moniker of ‘grand old man of journalism’ in India.
The Patrika was revered by many nationalist leaders including Gandhi, who said it was “really amrit”, as well as Bipin Chandra Pal, who credited it with being “the most outspoken” newspaper.
When Tushar took over the Patrika, it also became the first to use chartered flights to distribute the paper across India.
Writer Joy Bhattacharjya said that the Patrika also pioneered investigative journalism. “The Patrika once found a letter in the viceroy’s rubbish bin, which exposed a British plot to remove the Dogra kings of Kashmir from power. The resulting stories caused such an outcry that the British were forced to abandon the plan.”
Tania Ghosh, Tushar’s great-granddaughter, tells The Better India that her great-grandfather’s articles were never “inflammatory”.
“He was smart. He wrote his articles in a way that stung the British, but left them powerless to take any actual action,” she explains.
Tushar ran the paper for 60 years, till it was shut in 1991. Tushar remained the group editor till his death in ‘94.
Tania says there was a nuance to Tushar and the Patrika’s reportage, which was level-headed. “They didn’t need to shout and intimidate to prove their points. They were critical where it was needed. The paper never engaged in divisiveness,” she says.