The viral Hindi tweet roughly translates to, “Today a new information was received that the first telephone in Gujarat was not installed at the house of a big industrialist mill owner but on Gandhiji’s table in Sabarmati Ashram….. * And this telephone was installed by the British by spending lakhs of rupees by getting a special line installed so that the British could talk to Gandhiji….. Understand countrymen…”
The viral post features the image of our father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi holding a telephone in his hand with a caption claiming that the first telephone was not installed in any big house of an industrialist but on Gandhiji’s table situated in Sabarmati Ashram. The tweet also added that the Britishers installed this telephone with a special line investing lakhs of rupees in order to communicate with Gandhi. Many users have shared this image with similar claims and they even compared Savarkar with Gandhi in the message and it can be seen here, here, here and here.
आज एक नई जानकारी यह मिली कि गुजरात में सबसे पहला टेलीफोन किसी बड़े #उद्योगपति मिल मालिक के घर पर नहीं बल्कि साबरमती आश्रम में गांधीजी के टेबल पर लगा था।
— ठरकी लेहरू (@peldijiye) August 5, 2023
What’s the truth?
When YouTurn started with the simple Google reverse image process of the viral image we saw the same picture uploaded on the sites of Gettyimages and Alamy. To make things more interesting, what caught our eye is the information given there that this picture of Mahatma Gandhi is from the Sevagram Ashram in the year 1941.
According to the above pictures, the location where Gandhi is having a telephonic conversation is “Sevagram Ashram” and not Sabarmati Ashram as claimed by many users on social media.
While searching further, we came across this YouTube channel namely, Mahatma Gandhi Live where we can see a visual tour of the whole Sevagram Ashram. In the video, at the 10 minutes 16 seconds mark, it is mentioned that the then-Viceroy of India Lord Linlithgow found it difficult to communicate with Gandhiji in Sevagram Ashram. Therefore, he got it installed for his own convenience. This proves that the picture is from Sevagram Ashram located in Wardha, Maharashtra.
India and its telecommunication histories:
According to the Calcutta BSNL website, “By 1881, Govt. of India changed their earlier decision and license was granted to the original Oriental Telephone Company Limited of England for opening Telephone Exchanges at Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Karachi and Ahmedabad.
28th January, 1882 is a Red Letter Day in the history of Telephones in India. On this day Major E. Baring, Member of the Governor General’s Council declared open the Telephone Exchange in Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.”
Moreover, we got our hands on the Gujarat Gazetter Books on Government of Indian Culture website. In the book, we were able to get information regarding the telecommunication history of Ahmedabad, Gujarat.
According to the book, under the title ‘Telephones’ the information given on page number 488, “the first magneto exchange was inaugurated for the Ahmadabad city near Panchkuwa Gate on July 1897. At that time it had 34 users.”
Likewise, we got another fascinating fact from the website mkgandhi.org which says that Mahatma Gandhi returned to India permanently in 1915 only. This means, Gandhiji returned to India from South Africa after some 18 years whereas Ahemadabad got its first telephone in 1897 itself. This proves further that the above claims are completely misleading from the historical facts and evidences.
Thus, we conclude that, the first telephone service in Ahmedabad, Gujarat was inaugurated in 1987, whereas Gandhiji returned to India only in 1915. That is almost 18 years after the installation of the telephone. Another misinformation states that the viral image from Sabarmati Ashram is also misleading, meanwhile it is actually from Sevagram Ashram.