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Kasturi Ranga Iyengar biography

Kasturi Ranga Iyengar (1859-1923)

Kasturi Ranga Iyengar biography

Kasturi Ranga Iyengar
Kasturi Ranga Iyengar
       Kasturi Ranga was born on 15 December 1859 in an orthodox Brahmin family. His father Sesha Iyengar was a revenue official under the district collector of Tanjore. Kasturi Ranga started his education in village schools in Innambur and Kapisthalam where his father got posted.
But at the age of twelve, he was sent to Provincial School and College at Kumbakonam, where his elder brother was studying. After completing his matriculation at Kumbakonam, Kasturi Ranga joined Presidency College, Madras, from where he took his Arts degree in 1879. While he was still in school at Kumbakonam, Kasturi Ranga was married to a ten year old girl Kanakammal. When he was seventeen, his father Sesha Iyengar died (1876). However, Kasturi Ranga continued his studies and joined the law course in Presidency College but he failed in the first attempt. He joined the post of a sub-registrar in the Registration Department in 1881, which did not carry any salary but he earned commission on the stamp value of registered documents which came to about rupees forty per month. After serving as sub-registrar for three years, he again appeared for law degree and this time got through (1884). He started his apprenticeship under V. Bashyam Ayyangar, a leading lawyer of Madras. After his apprenticeship, Kasturi Ranga was enrolled as a Vakil (lawyer) in March 1885. Instead of setting up his legal practice at Madras he opted for Coimbatore, a smaller place. In a short time, he had a lucrative practice. He was also motivated to play an active role in the public life of the town. He was elected to the Municipal Council; was appointed honorary magistrate as well as a jail visitor. Later, he was nominated to Coimbatore District Board. After nine years of practice at Coimbatore, Kasturi Ranga moved to Madras city (1894), hoping to augment his practice and to play a greater role in public affairs. His calculation about increasing his legal practice did not fructify but he started taking greater interest in politics as well as in journalism. His public activities naturally brought him in close touch with The Hindu, the upcoming newspaper in Madras, and its manager and editor. He also took great interest in the activities of Madras Mahajan Sabha, a leading social and political society of Madras, whose office was located in the premises of The Hindu. In 1895, Kasturi Ranga became legal adviser to The Hindu which was then edited and managed by two of its founders, G. Subramania Iyer and M. Veeraraghavachariar respectively. As the two did not devote much time to the monetary aspect, The Hindu had run into financial difficulties. In addition to being the legal adviser, Kasturi Ranga was a regular contributor to the columns of The Hindu on legal, political and social issues.
In 1905, Kasturi Ranga took the most important decision of his life. He purchased The Hindu. His first concern after the take-over was to reorganise the business set-up of the paper. And within a month, he had to take up the entire burden of editorial responsibilities also. Simultaneously, he started strengthening its news services. He subscribed to a fuller service from Reuters which was the sole news agency covering Indian and foreign affairs. He also appointed correspondents in a number of places. He expanded the ‘Letters to the Editor’ columns to know the reaction of the readers and introduced several other features to make The Hindu a popular newspaper.
Even when Kasturi Ranga was preoccupied with the affairs of The Hindu, he took active part in politics. He was in sympathy with the policies of Bal Gangadhar Tilak and was critical of ‘Moderate’ leaders. When after the Surat Congress in 1907 the Moderate faction took over the Congress, Kasturi Ranga practically retired from active politics for nearly ten years. He returned to politics when in 1916 there was rapprochement between the two adversaries in the Congress after Tilak’s release from prison. He played an important role in formulating the Congress-League Pact of 1916 (Lucknow Pact), along with other important leaders of the Congress including Tilak. He also supported the Home Rule movement of Annie Besant and Tilak (1916). During the First World War, Kasturi Ranga gave cautious support to the Allies headed by Britain. In August 1918, the British government invited a small team of five journalists from India to visit Britain and even witness the goings-on in the battlefield on the Western Front. Kasturi Ranga was one of those five journalists. Writing on the invitation to Britain, Annie Besant wrote in her paper New India Mr. Kasturi Ranga Iyengar holds easily a very high place among the Indian journalists who have contributed not a little to the public life and the formation of influential public opinion in the country." The visit lasted for five months and he learnt a great deal from the visit which was reflected in the dispatches he sent from the War Front for The Hindu. When Mahatma Gandhi started the Non-Cooperation Movement in 1920, he gave selective support to the movement but was an ardent supporter of the freedom movement as such. During the critical years of 1920-22, the support of The Hindu was a great asset for the freedom struggle. Kasturi Ranga used his position as editor from behind the scenes to influence the views and decisions of men in power as well as in the Indian National Congress. When the Non-Cooperation Movement was suspended in February 1922 after the Chauri Chaura incident and Gandhi was arrested the following month, a committee was constituted, headed by Hakim Ajmal Khan, by the All India Congress Committee to review the situation. The other members of the committee were Motilal Nehru, C. Rajagopalachari, Patel and Kasturi Ranga Iyengar. The committee members were divided among those who wanted to change the nature of the movement and enter legislatures and those was wanted no change, opposed the Council entry proposal and recommended doing constructive work as advised by Gandhi. Kasturi Ranga was among those who opposed the Council entry proposal. Though he supported the Congress party and its policies through the editorials and write-ups in The Hindu, he never courted arrest.
       From the very beginning when he took over The Hindu, Kasturi Ranga did not hesitate to risk the displeasure of the authorities. For instance, highlighting the failure of the banking firm of Arbuthnot and Company, and the misdeeds of its proprietor Sir George Arbuthnot who was found guilty of misappropriation of public funds in the paper, resulted in his getting eighteen months rigorous imprisonment. By taking up such public causes The Hindu’s circulation increased and within a few years it became self-supporting and stopped accepting donations. In eighteen years (1905-1923) Kasturi Ranga made The Hindu one of the best produced and most influential newspapers in India.
Late in his life Kasturi Ranga emerged as a labour leader. In March 1920, he helped to organise the South Indian Railway Employees Association at Tiruchi. The inaugural meeting was held under his president ship and he was elected the association’s first president. In 1921, when ten thousand labourers were locked out of the Buckingham and Carnatic Mills, it was The Hindu under the editorship of Kasturi Ranga, that carne forward and defended their cause. During the strike Kasturi Ranga, in spite of poor health, attended a public meeting of the citizens at the Triplicane beach to express sympathy for the workers. Kasturi Ranga donated five hundred rupees for the ‘Strikers Relief Fund’ and was elected a member of the committee that was formed to help the strikers. Thus he helped the striking workers both with his pen and his money.
At the end of 1922, Kasturi Ranga fell ill. He was suffering from liver trouble and also had to be operated upon for hernia. For one full year he was in bed and died on 12 December 1923 in Madras.
Kasturi Ranga Iyengar was a leading journalist and a nationalist of the twentieth century. “His single minded patriotism and strict adherence to truth in the publication of news and features and freedom from malice or personal prejudices in dealing with those with whom he did not agree, entitle him to respect and gratitude and a high place among the builders of modern India”. The London Times in an obituary described him as ‘one of the most influential of extremist journalists in India”. A more detailed tribute was paid by Mahatma Gandhi when he was invited to unveil a portrait of Kasturi Ranga at the Hindu office, Madras (22 March 1925). Gandhi said, “I believe that Kasturi Ranga Iyengar represented some of the best that is to be found in Indian journalism. He had a style of his own. He commanded a sarcasm which was also peculiarly his own. Whenever he wrote as an opponent or as a friend, you could not fail to admire his style in which he wrote. I think it can be fairly claimed for him that he never wavered in his faith in his own country. And although he was always a courteous critic, he was also one of the most fearless critics, of the Government.
      “I had on many an occasion to differ from him. But I always valued his decision because I understood thereby wherein lay the weakness of my argument or my position. Very often it appeared to me that he occupied, if I may take such a parallel, about the same position in this Presidency that the editor of the London Times occupies in England."
       Kasturi Ranga Iyengar had three daughters and two sons. When Kasturi Ranga died in 1923 his two sons Kasturi Srinivasan and K. Gopalan inherited the paper. Kasturi Srinivasan (1887-1959) was more talented and was a worthy son of a worthy father. The Hindu under his direction became highly respected and internationally known. The paper, even after a century and a quarter maintains the same position successfully.


also see  - 

Lala Lajpat Rai biography


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