Press charges: renegotiating free speech and citizenship in post-partition Delhi

Rotem Geva*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

This article examines the conflict between press censorship and free speech in post-partition Delhi, focusing on the Urdu press. It demonstrates how conflicts over free speech became a focal point for the intersection of two fundamental tensions underlying postcolonial state formation—between civil liberties and the authoritarian legacy of colonial rule, and between a secular democracy and a religion-based partition. The article explores the Urdu refugee dailies that relocated from Lahore to Delhi amid the partition upheaval and emerged as significant media voicing refugees’ interests, often at the expense of Muslim residents. Their provocative writings simultaneously challenged the boundaries of free speech and advanced an exclusionary notion of citizenship based on blood-based descent (jus sanguinis). This narrow conception of citizenship, underlying the partition migrations themselves, challenged the secularist vision of India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. In response, the Delhi administration took actions against the refugee papers, making them central to contemporary struggles over press censorship. By taking the state to court, refugee editors promoted citizens’ right to free speech, but simultaneously advanced a circumscribed notion of ethno-religious citizenship. Navigating this dual role, the article unveils the exclusions and contradictions that marked citizenship formation in the early postcolonial period.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalContemporary South Asia
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Delhi
  • Partition refugees
  • Urdu press
  • censorship
  • freedom of speech
  • sedition

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