13. 'INDIAN OPINION'
Before I proceed with
the other intimate European contacts, I must note two or three items of
importance. One of the contacts, however, should be mentioned at once.
The appointment of Miss Dick was not enough for my purpose. I needed more
assistance. I have in the earlier chapters referred to Mr. Ritch. I knew
him well. He was manager in a commercial firm. He approved my suggestion
of leaving the firm and getting articled under me, and he considerably
lightened my burden.
About this time Sjt. Madanjit
approached me with a proposal to start Indian Opinion, and sought
my advice. He had already been conducting a press, and I approved of his
proposal. The journal was launched in 1904, and Sjt. Mansukhlal Naazar
became the first editor. But I had to bear the brunt of the work, having
for most of the time to be practically in charge of the journal. Not that
Sjt. Mansukhlal could not carry it on. He had been doing a fair amount
of journalism whilst in India, but he would never venture to write on intricate
South African problems so long as I was there. He had the greatest confidence
in my discernment, and therefore threw on me the responsibility of attending
to the editorial columns. The journal has been until this day a weekly.
In the beginning it used to be issued in Gujarati, Hindi, Tamil, and English.
I saw, however, that the Tamil and Hindi sections were a make-believe.
They did not serve the purpose for which they were intended, so I discontinued
them, as I even felt that there would be a certain amount of deception
involved in their continuance.
I had no notion that I should
have to invest any money in this journal, but I soon discovered that it
could not go on without my financial help. The Indians and the Europeans
both knew that though I was not avowedly the editor of Indian Opinion,
I was virtually responsible for its conduct. It would not have mattered
if the journal had never been started, but to stop it after it had once
been launched would have been both a loss and a disgrace. So I kept on
pouring out my money, until ultimately I was practically sinking all my
savings in it. I remember a time when I had to remit £75 each month.
But after all these years I
feel that the journal has served the community well. It was never intended
to be a commercial concern. So long as it was under my control, the changes
in the journal were indicative of changes in my life. Indian Opinion
in those days, like Young India and Navajivan today, was
a mirror of part of my life. Week after week I poured out my soul in its
columns, and expounded the principles and practice of Satyagraha as I understood
it. During ten years, that is, until 1914, excepting the intervals of my
enforced rest in prison, there was hardly an issue of Indian Opinion
without an article from me. I cannot recall a word in those articles set
down without thought or deliberation, or a word of conscious exaggeration,
or anything merely to please. Indeed the journal became for me training
in self-restraint, and for friends a medium through which to keep in touch
with my thoughts. The critic found very little to which he could object.
In fact the tone of Indian Opinion compelled the critic to put a
curb on his own pen. Satyagraha would probably have been impossible without
Opinion. The readers looked forward to it for a trustworthy account
of the Satyagraha campaign, as also of the real condition of Indians in
South Africa. For me it became a means for the study of human nature in
all its casts and shades, as I always aimed at establishing an intimate
and clean bond between the editor and the readers. I was inundated with
letters containing the outpourings of my correspondents' hearts. They were
friendly, critical, or bitter, according to the temper of the writer. It
was a fine education for me to study, digest, and answer all this correspondence.
It was as though the community thought audibly through this correspondence
with me. It made me thoroughly understand the responsibility of a journalist,
and the hold I secured in this way over the community made the future campaign
workable, dignified, and irresistible.
In the very first month of Indian
Opinion, I realized that the sole aim of journalism should be service.
The newspaper press is a great power, but just as an unchained torrent
of water submerges whole countrysides and devastates crops, even so an
uncontrolled pen serves but to destroy. If the control is from without,
it proves more poisonous than want of control. It can be profitable only
when exercised from within. If this line of reasoning is correct, how many
of the journals in the world would stand the test? But who would stop those
that are useless? And who should be the judge? The useful and the useless
must, like good and evil generally, go on together, and man must make his