The story of an irrepressible journalist and the role he played in the “The Trial of the Maharaja” by Debleena Majumdar

Debleena Majumdar
Debleena Majumdar

The story of Maharaja Nanda Kumar was the story of one man who rose up to the treachery and the corruption of the British and made a clear case of bribery against Hastings, one of the most powerful Britishers of that time.
There were a chain of events that followed that shook the very foundation of the British empire leading to one Supreme Court Trial, two historic impeachments and more.
While the life of Hastings is well-known, the story of Nanda Kumar is shrouded more in mystery, one which this book brings to light through this story.
Along with the conflict between the key characters, Nanda Kumar and Hastings, the book also shares the stories of some people from that time, who had their own parallel stories during that period. Some of these stories played a critical role in the story of Nanda Kumar, specially in unveiling the chain of events that followed the historic Supreme Court trial.
This is the story of one such character, the man who started one of the earliest English language newspapers in Calcutta, Bengal Gazette.
Here’s an extract from the book about Hicky and the origins of Bengal Gazette.
“Mr James Augustus Hicky was an Irishman. He had been a one-time surgeon and he wanted to set up a shipping business. He later mentioned that he had heavy losses at sea during his earlier years and had to surrender his vessel and other possessions to creditors. He struck out again in a new enterprise after that, finding some capital from a friend and identifying carpenters to prepare printing materials as he had a background as a printer.
In 1779, he set up the first newspaper of Bengal, aptly named, the Bengal Gazette, the newspaper started off at this time with the objective to serve as a “weekly political and commercial paper open to all parties and influenced by none.” (Busteed, page 183)
From talking about the condition of the roads to the fires that razed houses to reporting about the wars in Mysore and the plight of the soldiers in the army to more controversial viewpoints about the role of the women, the paper started to comment on multiple topics. The paper soon became a sensation with everyone vying to read it. People shared the Bengal Gazette with their relatives and friends back home and discussed the gossip of the week with wicked glee.
The paper had many things going for it right from its early days – poetry, wit, gossip and a glimpse of the British life in Bengal. It however soon treaded into dangerous waters by starting to comment on the political situation of day, albeit with a tone of satire. Soon, another paper called the Indian Gazette started off, creating more competition for Hicky. Hicky perceived that the rival paper had been started with the blessings of Hastings to say the good things about the Company that his paper would not say.
Hicky decided to get more aggressive. Rather than just reporting on news, he felt that what his audience needed was more personal news about the known figures of the day.”
Hastings and Chief Justice who presided over Nanda Kumar trial, Impey. It was a bold decision by Hicky. What price did he pay for it and what role did Hicky play in the story of Nanda Kumar? What happened to him and to Bengal Gazette?
Read the story “The Trial of the Maharaja” to know more.

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