During the colonial rule, the printing press and newspapers grew and the first Indian, rather Asian, a weekly newspaper, Hicky’s Bengal Gazette, edited by James Augustus Hicky, came out on 29 January 1780, after East India Company had occupied large parts of India in 1757 after the defeat of Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula in War of Plassey.
Warren Hastings, the first Governor-General of India, appointed by the Company in 1773, crushed the Gazette within two years thereby ceasing its publication from 30 March 1782. Various laws were brought by the Company to suppress the Indian press and writings against British rule. Lord Wellesley, the Governor-General enacted the first Censorship of Press Act in 1799. Regulation III of 1818, under which Lala Lajpat Rai was sent to Mandalay jail in Burma, and then a series of oppressive laws like Licensing Regulations Act 1823, Press Act of 1835 or Charles Metcalfe Act, Licensing Act 1857, etc., were enacted during East India Company rule.
Payem e Azadi an Urdu paper under the editor Mirza Bedar Bakht, supported the first war of Independence in 1857. It is believed that he was publicly hanged and the readers of this paper, from whose houses its issues were found, were also punished by the Company.
Post-1858, the Sedition Act 124-A was enacted and used to suppress the ideas of freedom fighters like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, who was sentenced to six years of imprisonment and his paper Kesari was subjected to prosecution.
Zabtshuda Geet: Azadi aur Ekta ke Tarane. Roughly translated as ‘Banned Songs: Songs of Freedom and Unity’, was edited by Ramjanam Sharma in 1987 and its 2021 reprint has sketches by many artists along with the poems. Ramjanam Sharma, the editor of this book, has mentioned in his editorial that as per NAI records, 264 poems in Hindi. 58 poems in Urdu, 19 in Tamil, 10 in Telugu. 22 each in Punjabi and Gujarati, 13 in Marathi. 9 in Sindhi. 1 1 in Odia, 4 in Bangla and one in Kannada were banned.
Martyrs Ram Prasad Bismil and Ashfaqullah Khan were both great poets, while the poem Sarfaroshi ki Tamanna... long ascribed to Ram Prasad Bismil is a poem written by another poet, namely, Bismil Azimabadi. The poem is popular enough to be produced in many films on the lives of revolutionaries, especially sung so melodiously in Manoj Kumar’s film Shaheed, based on begins the life with of this Bhagat couplet Singh.
Tagore’s poem Bharat Prashashti or of Bharat’ is included in the collection.Poet Jyoti Shankar (Master Noora) wrote in 1930 – Bharat na Rah sakega Hargiz Glwlamkhana/Azad Hoga Aata Hai weh Zamana, meaning India will not stay Slave/ It shall be free, that time is coming... Hindi poet Chakor’s 1930 poem— Kisan depicts the agonising life of Indian peasants under British rule which was oppressing peasants by patronising Indian feudal lords, who were supporting the British colonial regime.
Numerous eminent poets like Jan Nisar Akhtar, Sahir Ludhianvi, Hafiz Jalandhari, Hasrat Mohani, Makhdoom Mohiudeen, Tika Ram Sukhan. Sohan Lal Dwidey, Ali Sardar Jafri, Brij Narayan Chakbast, Swami Narayannand, Pandit Mela Ram ‘Wafa’, etc., are included in these collections. The marked incidents of freedom struggle— 1857 War of Independence, 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre. 1922 Chauri Chaura, 1927 Kakori case martyrs— Bismil-Ashfaq, Naujwan Bharat Sabha and Hindustan Socialist Republican Association (HSRA) of Bhagat Singh and other revolutionaries, assassination of John Saunders and Michael O’Dwyer, 1929 Assembly bomb case, and Quit India Movement of 1942, etc., all these have been covered in these poems included in Publications Division’s special editions.