Khasa Subba Rau explains what the mission of Swarajya is in the first issue, on this date, 61 years ago.
I have started this journal, Swarajya after considerable heart-searching. It might not have been impossible for me, perhaps, to find some more comfortable employment, immune from the headaches that the running of a weekly with extremely limited resources entails. But no other employment could have given me the freedom that I now have, so essential for the purpose outlined below. Freedom does not mean simply absence of restraint. Very few journalists are subjected to restraint from their employers in course of the performance of their day to day duties. The need for restraint is eliminated by conscious elementary adjustments which writers and others learn to make to standards of behaviour considered part of the obligations of service or of duty to the institution served by them. These standards of behaviour are not always inspired by considerations of right and wrong. They have their origins in some interest or the other, mostly connected with property, not germane to the properties of the journalistic profession. We then find even great newspapers deviating from their pristine purity of their glorious avocation at its best, with all their staffs pulled, whether they linked it or not, into attitudes not altogether pleasing to their professional consciences.
The Press is not alone in evading the discomfort of probity. It is a universal phenomenon, and in India it is aggravated by the perverting power of intense and widespread poverty. Large masses of people without much to live upon tend to become easy prey to leaders and politicians whose main preoccupation is the pursuit of power. Everybody is drawn into the power-scramble. In a democracy, people are supposed to be the ultimate repositories of sovereign authority by means of their power through votes to make and unmake Governments, but in actual practice the votes of vast multitudes of are cast, not in freedom or wisdom, but in the frenzy of diseased mentalities promoted for their own ends by self-seeking agitators. The hustings are the haunt of corruption in various forms. One net result of it all is that save in exceptional cases, the best men do not get into the legislatures and other citadels of authority, and those who do get in there have a vested interest in keeping out talent and pampering mediocrity.
Out of my own observation, and experience I arrived at the same thought to which Sri Rajagopalachari has given beautiful expression in the article he has contributed to this inaugural issue by way of blessing and welcome– that the independence of the Press has been adversely affected by the doubtful blessing of large capital, and that the small well-conducted high quality weekly can supply a felt want and render great national service. Of these choice attributes the one that Swarajya has immediately achieved is smallness in size. But the smallness of the journal is an index of the quality that it seeks to build. As space in these columns has the preciousness of short supply, it is hoped that that good use will be made of every word, none will be wasted carelessly and no trash will be let in to fill the gaps.
It is customary for a new journal to announce its policy. Swarajya has no fixed policy settled in advance to suit prospective occasions. Its judgements on every issue as it arises will be formed on merits in the light of the surrounding sources. It will not shrink from correcting a blunder when it realises that one has been committed. It will not, for the sake of consistency or false prestige, go on committing other blunders to make the original one look more plausible. It is opposed to the “closed book” or “sealed affair” principle and keeps an open mind as much as on its conclusions as on those of others ranged against it in argument or controversy. It is attached to no party and recognises to loyalty except the public interest.
India has immense resources in materials, man-power and talent. If they are not properly integrated, not only will the present appalling poverty vanish, our contribution to the sum of human happiness will overflow national boundaries and spread all over the world. But what is standing in the way? It is the dominance of individual selfishness to the neglect of social advancement, even in those elected to rule and set an example, and the acceptance, untested, of the fashion of the day with its half-baked slogans by our leaders of opinion in a desperate endeavour to look progressive and be popular and amass votes. I believe that independent reflection on outstanding regional, national and world issues, combined with unrestricted freedom of discussion subject only to the disciplines of decency, in a journal conducted in a disinterested spirit, solely in public interest can turn out to be a source of invigorating influence for correcting some at least of the fallacies into which our affairs have sunk and instal in their place worthy habits of thought that will raise the good of all above the privileged rapacities of powerful or overpampered individuals or groups.s
Swarajya aspires to fulfil this mission. Aware as I am of my shortcomings in undertaking it, I can boldly claim one virtue–never to have written a line I did not fully believe in at the moment to another’s dictation, and never to have quailed, when convinced, from admitting a wrong. On these credentials of integrity, I base my appeal for support, fully conscious that no journal can run a day longer that the public empower it to run with their blessings and sympathetic indulgence and active and confident participation in its work.
This article, penned by Khasa Subba Rau, appeared in Swarajya’s maiden issue on 14 July, 1956.