The Library Movement, India, 19th century

Ever thought about how Indians, who had almost no access to education in the 19th century, managed to rise together, almost in sync, to fight for their freedom against the British rule?

The Library Movement and the power of the Press undoubtedly hastened the process of spreading awareness about the oppression and the very possibility of rebellion against being treated unfairly.

The Tribune, March 24, 1931

The Tribune, March 24, 1931

The Library Movement was led by common, educated village folk. India, during her struggle for independence, had a dynamic, extremely powerful and active press. The newspapers were printed and circulated as a public service, to educate and mobilize the Indians across her territory. The most read newspapers were written and published by Indian nationalist leaders. The newspaper was read and discussed thoroughly by people around the country.

Since the literacy level was abysmally low, the Library Movement became the need of the hour. It was a movement that created ‘libraries’ everywhere in the country.

A ‘library’ had three components:

  1. A newspaper
  2. A person who could read the paper out loud
  3. A bench/charpoy for the listeners to surround the reader

It was a reading club, really. Only, they didn’t read Dan Brown or Oscar Wilde, but they read what men who were inspired by Tolstoy and Thoreau wrote, and they did more than critique what they read – they learnt from it, and they used what they learnt to fight for their freedom.

Isn’t that the goal of reading, ultimately? -Freedom.