Money, revenge prompted Hicky to rail against graft: Author

Kolkata : Money and revenge was the primary motivation for the anti-corruption crusade of James Augustus Hicky, who launched the first printed newspaper in India in the late 18th century, according to a researcher.

Hicky's "Bengal Gazette" was first published on January 29, 1780, from Kolkata.

"Hicky primary motivation was to make money as he was just out of prison and had to pay his debts. Although he wanted to expose corruption but his main motivation was personal revenge.

"For instance, he wrote about the commander who sabotaged his printing press, by exposing about his concubines," Andrew Otis, the author of 'Hicky's Bengal Gazette: The Untold Story of India's First Newspaper', said during a lecture at the American Center here on Friday.

Speaking about Hicky's correspondents and the way they worked, Otis said: "Many of his correspondents were anonymous and used a pseudonym to hide themselves.

"At times I wondered if it was Hicky who wrote pretending to be someone else but then by observing instances, I could corroborate that it was not Hicky. There were many correspondents in the Army."

On one hand, Hicky wanted his paper to serve society, wrote about road maintenance and the poor and on the other hand, he mentioned the personal lives of the elites.

"I don't want to come up as someone defending Hicky unnecessarily and tried my best to be objective. He wrote about concubines, the sexual life of (then Governor General) Warren Hastings and many scandalous things. These things were there and certainly, he was not a perfect man," said the author.

The book is an outcome of five years of painstaking research in India, Germany and England.

"I would describe this book as a piece of journalism. Hicky did so many interesting things and I tried my best to be objective and not give much of a spin to all the facts so that it remains open for interpretations," Otis said.

"I lived in Kolkata for a year and had a lot of difficulty with the archives. But then was very happy to get all the information I was looking for. I believe I have been able to delve into all the facts about Hicky from the Kolkata archives," said Otis.

He said during the British rule, Kolkata was also known as the City of Palaces and at that time Europeans wrote about the beautiful palaces as well as poverty.

Otis, a Fulbright-Fellow, lived in Kolkata from 2013 to 2014, and is a PhD student of Journalism at the University of Maryland, in the US.