Vernacular Press Act and The Indian Arms Act 1878 Under Lord Lytton
After 1857 Revolt
- After the 1857 Revolt, the responsibility of ruling India was directly assumed by the British Crown.
- Lord Canning became the first Viceroy of India in 1858.
- The Government of India Act of 1858 and the Queen’s Proclamation in the same year signify this change in the Indian administration.
- The Queen’s Proclamation remained the basis of the British policy in India for more than 60 years.
Lord Lytton (1876 – 1880)
- Lord Lytton became the Viceroy of India in 1876.
- He effected several administrative changes in India. They were meant only to serve the interests of Britain.
- Indians became dissatisfied of his measures.
- Famine of 1876 – 1878
- The Second Anglo Afghan War (1878-80)
- Vernacular Press Act 1878
- The Indian Arms Act 1878
Famine of 1876 – 1878
- The famine of 1876-78 had resulted from the failure of two monsoons.
- The worst affected areas were Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, Bombay, Central India and the Punjab.
- It took a toll of five million lives in a single year.
- The outbreak of cholera and fever added to the misery of the suffering population.
- Lytton’s Government failed miserably to tackle the situation
- Many villages were depopulated. Vast stretch of lands were left uncultivated.
- At that time Lord Lytton imposed Custom duty on textile goods exported to England.
- He also held a Durbar at Delhi in 1877 in which Queen Victoria was declared as the Empress of India.
- This extravagant Durbar cost millions of rupees.
- The first Famine Commission (1878-80) under Sir Richard Strachey was appointed
The Second Anglo Afghan War (1878-80)
- British feared the increased influence of Russia in Afghanistan. It was thought that Russia would invade India.
- To prevent Russian expansion, Lord Lytton decided to have a complete control over Afghanistan.
- So he sent the British troops to attack Afghanistan in 1878.
- The ruler Amir Sher Ali, fled to Russia. The British signed a treaty with the new ruler.
- This unnecessary war was waged when the Indian economy was in very bad shape.
Vernacular Press Act 1878
- Indian newspapers sympathised with the grievances of the people.
- They wrote against Lyttons’ measures and the British rule.
- Therefore Lytton restricted the liberty of the Indian Press by passing the Vernacular Press Act in 1878.
- The vernacular newspapers and periodicals were subjected to strict censorship.
- This Act empowered a Magistrate to secure an undertaking from the editor.
- Publisher and printer of a vernacular newspaper that nothing would be published against the English Government.
- The equipment of the press could be seized if the offence was committed.
- This Act crushed the freedom of the Indian press.
- This created adverse public opinion against the British Government.
The Indian Arms Act 1878
- Lytton’s Government passed the Indian Arms Act in 1878.
- It compelled the Indians to have licence to keep, sell or purchase arms.
- The offenders were to be punished both with fine and imprisonment.
- But the English, Anglo-Indians and government servants of certain categories were exempted from this Act.
- Thus most of the administrative measures of Lord Lytton were against the interests of the Indians.