Taberez Neyazi’s new book is a welcome addition to the literature on India’s rapidly changing world of media by one of its most enterprising scholars of communication. Centred around Neyazi’s PhD thesis submitted to the National University of Singapore in 2009, the book stretches well beyond the confines of a thesis to suggest how media have played a ‘catalytic role as mobilising agents in the ongoing democratic transformation of India’ (p. 4).
The core of the thesis was Neyazi’s enterprising fieldwork with Dainik Bhaskar, one of the country’s two largest Hindi dailies. He zeroed in on the patterns of work in one of the paper’s 60-odd publication centres in Itarsi, a town of 100,000 people 90 kilometres south of Bhopal on the Bhopal-Nagpur road. His research on Itarsi forms two central chapters of the eight-chapter book and provides some of the most revealing insights.
After a long introductory chapter discussing theoretical frameworks, ‘Under Colonial Rule: Mobilisation in the Hindi and English Press’ examines the role of Hindi media—for Neyazi, this means newspapers—in the national movement against British rule. It contends that Hindi newspapers were a crucial mobilizing force in the struggle for Independence. ‘Media and Mobilisation in Independent India’ argues, however, that in the first twenty or thirty years after Independence, the mobilizing capacity of Hindi print media actually declined, as political elites focused on English-language publications. Hindi publications, now lacking the nationalist sense of mission as well as elite patronage and strong advertising revenue, languished. ‘The resurgence of the Hindi press’ came only in the 1980s ‘when the Ayodhya movement reappeared’ (p. 51).