Lytton’s viceroyalty was characterized by ruthlessness in both domestic and foreign affairs. At the time, India was in the grip of a famine caused by crop failure in 1876. In response, he called a durbar and declared Queen Victoria to be the “Empress of India.”
Vernacular Press Act:
The printer and publisher of any vernacular newspaper could be called upon by the district magistrate to enter into an agreement confirming that none of their published papers will include hatred, disaffection, or antipathy towards the government.
If any press fails to follow the guidelines and fulfill the agreement then the security deposit amount shall be forfeited and press equipment would be seized.
The Act empowered the district magistrate to take action against those who committed the offence.
The Act restricted the press to file re-appeal in any of the courts and that the action of the magistrate shall be final and binding. If a native newspaper submits proofs to the government censor, then it could get an exemption from the Act’s operation.
The Act clearly distinguished between European and vernacular newspapers. Vernacular newspapers were not given a single chance to prove themselves.
The most significant case was of the Amrita Bazar Patrika, which turned into an English newspaper overnight. This step was taken by the vernacular newspaper to escape the liabilities under the Vernacular Press Act.
There were cases against Som Prakash, Bharat Mihir, Dhaka Prakash, and Samachar Darpan, which were some of the other vernacular newspapers that were used to criticize and convey an anti-government opinion.
Royal Titles Act, 1876 & Grand Durbar of 1877
The Royal Titles Act, passed by the British Parliament, bestowed the title of Kaiser-i-Hind, or Queen Empress of India, on Queen Victoria.
On January 1, 1877, a Grand Durbar was held in Delhi to announce the assumption of the Title by the people and princes of India. Unfortunately, Durbar was held at a time when many parts of the country were suffering from famine. Lytton lavished millions on pomp while allowing people to starve. This fueled a current of national humiliation among Indians.
Famine struck Bombay, Madras, Mysore, Hyderabad, and parts of Central India and Punjab.
The government made only half-hearted efforts to assist the famine-stricken.
In 1878, Richard Strachey established the Famine Commission, which opposed the provision of gratuitous assistance and advocated for able-bodied people to be given jobs at wages sufficient to maintain their health.
For this, he recommended the construction of a railway and irrigation works. (This also laid the groundwork for famine policy.)
Second Anglo-Afghan War
During Lord Lytton’s tenure in Afghanistan, the Russian and British Empires engaged in a series of political maneuvers for influence in Central Asia.
Afghanistan was an important player in this game because its location served as a buffer between the two empires.
Lytton planned an invasion of Afghanistan after exhausting all diplomatic options, resulting in the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
The Treaty of Gandamak established a more British-friendly Amir as the ruler of Afghanistan.
Arms Act 1879: He passed the Indian Arms Act in 1879 as per which it was a criminal offence for Indians to convey arms without a permit.