KENYA HISTORY PROJECT

Girdhari Lal Vidyarthi: Fighter for Press Freedom

Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee and G. L. Vidyarthi

Girdhari Lal Vidyarthi (1907-1985, pictured right) is best remembered as a journalist and newspaperman who fought for press freedom on behalf of native Kenyans against the colonial government.

Born in Kenya in 1910 to Indian parents, Vidyarthi printed newspapers such as Habari za Dunia (Edited by FM Ruhinda), Jicho (Edited by Henry Gathigira),Ramogi (edited by Achieng’ Oneko) and Mumenyereri (Edited by Henry Muoria Mwaniki), all critical of the colonial government for its treatment of native Africans.

He also published a trilingual newspaper titled Mitro (meaning Friends) that was published in English, Hindu and Urdu in addition to publishing a Gujerati-English newspaper titled Colonial Times.

Habari za Dunia was banned by the colonial government in 1947 while Jicho was banned in 1962 .

Vidyarthi set the gold standard of excellence for future journalists and publishers in courageously calling out the colonial government’s injustice and working tirelessly to secure press freedom.

His Colonial Printing Works also helped numerous Kenyan publishers print their including KCA  leader James Beuttah’s newspaper called Muthithu (Treasure).

Considered a radical by the colonial government, Vidyarthi was also arrested charged and convicted of sedition more than once.

He is the grandfather of current NTV anchor and reporter Smriti Vidyarthi.

Other Indian publishers include Sitaram Acharya, Manilal Desai and N.S. Thukur who ran The Democrat, a newspaper also critical of the colonial government. Sitaram Acharya was also the publisher of the KCA publication Muigwithania, edited by none other than Jomo Kenyatta.

References:

  1. Indians in Kenya: The Politics of Diaspora (Harvard Historical Studies) Apr 6, 2015by Sana Aiyar
  2. Liberating Minds, Restoring Kenyan History: Anti-Imperialist Resistance by Progressive South Asian Kenyans 1884-1965 Mar 23, 2017 by Nazmi Durrani.
  3. KENYA’S ETHNIC COMMUNITIES : FOUNDATION OF THE NATION 2006 by WANGUHU NG’ANG’A
  4. Mercantile adventurers: The world of East African Asians, 1750-19851996 by Dana April Seidenberg
  5. Web article on  theindiandiaspora.com titled An untold saga: Century of Indian journalism in Kenya by An untold saga: Century of Indian journalism in Kenya.
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