The year 1922. At that time Calcutta was one of the main Newspaper centres of India. Burma (now Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) were broadly parts of this great country.
Mrinal Kanti Bose, a journalist of fame, thought that journalists should have a forum to exchange ideas, discuss problems and decide on remedial measures in favour of journalists and decide the course of action.
Motilal Ghosh, a freedom fighter and an eminent journalist, encouraged Mrinal Kanti Bose to go ahead. He took the plunge and succeeded in his mission. The inaugural conference took place in Calcutta on 18 June of 1922. Almost all principal newspapers were represented in the conference led by their editors. Prafulla Kumar Sarkar of Ananda Bazar Patrika, Ramananda Chatterjee of Modern Review and Prabasi, Hemendra Prasad Ghosh of Dainik Basumati, Moulavi Wajed Ali of Musalman, Ambika Prasad Bajpayee of Lakmannya (Hindi) took active part in this conference.
All of them were nationalists to the core and against alien rule.
The organisation was christened as Indian Journalists’ Association (I.J.A. in short). Krishna Kumar Mitra was elected President and Mrinal Kanti Bose the Secretary.
The Association took up action-oriented progamme to (i) protest against the Government restrictions of the Press, (ii) One-day strike in Newspapers on 30.09.1931 on the same issue, (iii) Wage fixation and list of Holidays, (iv) Seminar on journalism, (v) Campaign for communal harmony, (vi) Move to amend Sedition act, (vii) Protest against repressive ordinances and Bengal Regulation III, (viii) Encourage other provinces to form journalists associations (ix) take initiatives to establish Press Club etc.
The founding conference decided to open the door of the Association for the Moffusil Journalists.
At the initiatives of the Association a conference to set up an All-India Co-ordination body of the Working Journalist Associations was held in Calcutta on 01 January 1929. Noted Participants in the conference were K. Natarajan and S.A. Brelvi of Bombay, Bipin Chandra Pal of Bengal, T. Prakasam and A. Rangaswami Ayer of Madras, C.Y. Chintamani of Allahabad, K.C. Roy of Associated press and others.
The Association felt that journalism should be a subject of teaching in the University of Calcutta. A delegation of the Association met Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Vice-Chancellor, Calcutta University in 1934. He took positive interest in the matter. At a later stage journalism was included as a faculty in the University of Calcutta after India won Independence.
On 12 March of 1930 Gandhiji started Dandi March. Civil Disobedience Movement followed. The Government banned publication of any item of both the movements. The Association publicly called for disobeying the ban order The Government further proclaimed a Press Ordinance curbing the freedom of the Press. The Association protested against the Ordinances. The Nationalist newspapers responded to the call of the Association. There was a newspaper blackout in Calcutta for continuous 10 days.
The Association further gave a call to the public to boycott these newspapers who supported the black Press Ordinance.
In 1935 working journalists of different newspapers met in Calcutta and recognised Indian Journalists’ Association as the apex body of Provincial-level Journalists’ Union.
The Association started its journey chiefly as a professional body. At the same time it tried for wage fixation, monthly payment of Wages and leave rule which were non-existent at that time of the newspaper industry.
Ultimately, the Association was registered as a trade union and inspired other provincial association to follow suit. The Association took the lead to organise a formal conference of provincial Associations in Calcutta in April 1952. M. Chalapati Rao, Editor of The National Herald, founded by Jawahar Lal Nehru, presided.
I.J.A. is the eldest brother of the family many provincial Associations. Not only that, the Association always played a leading role in all the professional and economic issues concerning the lives of journalists in West Bengal as well as of the National stage.