Modern society has been conceptualised as information society where mass media of communication play unincreasingly critical role in social processes, particularly mobilisation for change and development. The process of communication is central to the creation of community and building associations. This study is a valuable effort at construct-ing the fascinating story of evolution of role of the press in social awareness building and political mobilisation in modern India through presentation of a comparative narration of two instances of it, from colonial and post-colonial India.
The Media Effect has two specific qualities which make it worth reading for a better comprehension of media-society interaction pat-terns in India. First, it has succeeded in presenting diverse sociological theories about media, communication, and society in an intelligent manner. By reading this book anyone can become familiar with complex ideas of a whole generation of media analysts ranging from Marshall McLuhan of ‘medium is the message’ fame to Jürgen Habermas who conceptualised ‘public sphere’ as the space of media society togetherness. Secondly, this book is an outstanding contribution towards decoding political culture of colonial and post-colonial India through a comparative analysis of press and political mobilisation.
Of course, the historical contribution of Gandhi in the making of modern India is a well-articulated theme in a variety of writings of social scientists. But Gandhi, the journalist, has remained ignored due to the large shadows of Gandhi, the Mahatma. The Media Effect is a good link between the two and has the potential of becoming a good reading for all those who may have interest in Gandhi as one of the master communicators.
Looking at JP and the JP movement for the purpose of making sense of the changing role of the press in post-colonial India is a special feature of this study, which has not been well articulated so far in the existing attempts analysing either press and political mobilisation in independent India or the JP Movement.
Dr. Navneet Anand has juxtaposed Gandhi and JP with due care for the similarities and differences between the two modern masters of non-violent mass mobilisation. It is beyond doubt that Gandhi and JP do not represent typical “politicians” for whom politics is a pragmatic pursuit of power. For them politics was a quest for creating a humane social order for enhancing the dignity of human beings beyond the trappings of statecraft and competition for power. Gandhi innovated the power of satyagraha or moral force in modern political history, and JP considered himself as a humble follower of the Gandhian path. But at the same time, as Dr Navneet Anand has underlined, “Gandhi and JP occupied the centrestage in two epoch-making periods in Indian history. While Gandhi moved millions against the mighty British power, JP stirred many souls in his campaign against the authoritarian regime of Indira Gandhi. Gandhi in colonial times and JP in independent India represent two of the most versatile and powerful mass leaders in Indian tradition …..who understood the basic processes of the mass media.”
I find myself in agreement with the author that any reader of this book has to keep in mind the commonalities and separateness of the Gandhi and JP periods in approaching the complexities of the role of the press in political mobilisation in modern India. The two men represented two different models of leadership and ideologies. They were separated by their contexts but united by their concepts of public sphere, role of press, and public interest. They approached press as partners but avoided reducing it for the purposes of propaganda. In other words, the pursuit of saintly discourse by Gandhi and JP provided a new basis for their approach to mass media as agents of social change.
This book is a contribution by a serious student of social sciences who also has experience of political activism and professional journalism. This rare combination of academic training at Delhi University and JNU, and field experience of student activities and professional work in some of the leading media houses has given Dr Navneet Anand an admirable capacity for presenting a complex theme in comfortable language and clear conceptual framework. I am confident that this book will be a useful contribution in the context of understanding the sociology of media and the political significance of the role of the press in modern India.
Professor Anand Kumar
Centre for the Study of Social Systems
School of Social Sciences
Jawaharlal Nehru University