Dosabhai Framji Karaka

Location

Lincoln College, University of Oxford
Turl Street
Oxford, OX1 3DR
United Kingdom
51° 45' 13.0968" N, 1° 15' 22.896" W
Other names: 

D. F. Karaka

Dosoo Framjee Karaka

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Date of birth: 
14 Apr 1911
City of birth: 
Bombay
Country of birth: 
India
Current name city of birth: 
Mumbai
Date of death: 
01 Jun 1974
Precise date of death unknown: 
Y
Location of death: 
Bombay
Date of 1st arrival in Britain: 
01 Jan 1930
Precise 1st arrival date unknown: 
Y
Dates of time spent in Britain: 

1930-8, 1945

Location: 

Oxford, London.

2
About: 

D. F. Karaka was born in Bombay in 1911. He is the grandson of Dosabhai Framji Karaka, whose History of the Parsis became the authoritative text on the Parsee community in the late nineteenth century. Karaka arrived in England in the autumn of 1930 and joined Lincoln College at the University of Oxford to study law. Karaka became an active member of the Oxford Union, participating in debates. He would occupy a number of posts - Treasurer, Secretary and Librarian - before being elected the first President of South Asian origin of the Oxford Union. He succeeded Michael Foot, who was a close friend of his. 

Karaka was Secretary of the Union when it held its controversial ‘King and Country’ debate (9 February 1933). The Union discussed the pacifist motion ‘that this House will under no circumstances fight for its King or Country’. The controversy provoked heated debate in the national press and among Oxford students. At a subsequent meeting of the Union, Karaka’s minutes were torn from him and destroyed. He also received protection from the university police for a limited amount of time. During his time at Oxford, Karaka started writing non-fiction, especially about his experience as an Indian in Britain and his position as a 'coloured' man. After Karaka finished his degree, he sat the examination for the Indian Civil Service. He failed but went on to pass his Bar examination in London. In order to earn some money, he briefly worked at the clothes store Simpson's on Piccadilly, advertising the store to newly-arrived Indian students in Britain. Against his parents wishes, he decided to pursue a career in journalism. He published an article on the colour bar in 1934 in the Daily Herald, one of the most widely read newspapers in the 1930s. He also wrote several non-fiction books that dealt with the colour bar and the position of Indians in the British empire and Britain, most notably The Pulse of Oxford, I Go West and Oh! You English. Some of his journalism of the period is collected in All My Yesterdays.

He returned to Bombay in 1938 where he worked as a journalist for the Bombay Chronicle, later being promoted to its editorial board. During the Second World War, he worked as a war correspondent. Initially he was posted to Chungking, covering the Chinese war against the Japanese, before becoming effectively an embedded journalist with the 14th Army in Burma in the run-up to the battles of Kohima and Imphal. He transferred to the Western Theatre of War in early 1945, covering the advances of British, American and Indian Forces in Italy. After a short time in London, where he was able to reconnect with friends such as Michael Foot from his Oxford days, as well as gain an exclusive interview with Lord Amery, Secretary of State for India, he was accredited to Southern Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force to witness the Allied Forces’ final push through France and the Low Countries into Germany. He was one of the first journalists to reach Bergen Belsen concentration camp. He was also among the journalists who travelled to Rheims to witness Germany surrender on 8 May 1945.

After the end of the war in Western Europe and his return to England, Karaka wanted to move via New York to the Pacific to cover the war there. However, he did not make it to the Pacific theatre in time. At the end of 1945, Karaka returned to India. After falling out with the editor of the Bombay Chronicle, he founded his own weekly newspaper, The Current. Karaka supported Indian independence and the Indian National Congress, while also supporting the British war effort. He was witness to partition violence, covering for his newspaper the displacement of 10 million people and the atrocities that accompanied it. After independence he became increasingly critical and sceptical of Nehru’s policies. He wrote critically about corruption, and Nehru’s ‘autocratic’ style of government, which led to his phone conversations being tapped and the monitoring of his movements. In 1971, with heightened tensions between India and Pakistan, he was imprisoned briefly on grounds of national security. D. F. Karaka died in 1974 from a heart attack.

Connections: 

Lord Amery, Michael Foot, M. K. Gandhi, Roy Jenkins, Michael Joseph (publisher), M. R. Jayakar, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Humayun Kabir, Madan Mohan Malaviviya, Sarojini Naidu, Jawaharlal Nehru, Tej Bahadur Sapru.

Organizations: 
Involved in events: 

Second World War (war correspondent for the Bombay Chronicle in East India, Burma, the western front and Germany)

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Published works: 

The Pulse of Oxford (London: J. M. Dent, 1933)

Oh! You English (London: Fredrick Muller, 1935)

I Go West (London: Michael Joseph, 1938)

Out of Dust (Bombay: Thacker, 1940) [biography of Gandhi]

Chungking Diary (Bombay: Thacker, 1942)

There Lay the City (Bombay: Thacker, 1942) [novel]

Karaka Hits Propaganda (Bombay: Sound Magazine, 1943) [pamphlet]

All My Yesterdays (Bombay: Thacker, 1944)

Just Flesh (Bombay: Thacker, 1944) [novel]

We Never Die (Bombay: Thacker, 1944) [novel]

With the 14th Army (Bombay: Thacker, 1944; London: D. Crisp, 1945)

New York with its Pants Down (Bombay: Thacker, 1946)

Freedom Must Not Stink (Bombay: Kutub, 1947)

I’ve Shed My Tears: A Candid View of Resurgent India (New York and London: D. Appleton-Century Co., 1947)

No Peace at All (Bombay: Kutub, 1948)

Arre Bhai: Being Rephlection of the Problems oph Bharat, i.e. India, Boycott British Language (Bombay: S. B. Phansikar, New Era Printing Press, 1950)

Betrayal in India (London: Victor Gollancz, 1950)

Nehru: The Lotuseater of Kashmir (London: Derek Verschoyle, 1953)

Fabulous Mogul Nizam of Hyderabad (London: Derek Verschoyle, 1955)

Morarji (Bombay: Times of India Press, 1965)

Shivaji: Portrait of an Early Indian (Bombay: Times of India Press, 1969)

Then Came Hazrat Ali: Autobiography 1972 (Bombay: D. F. Karaka, 1972)

This India (Bombay: Thacker, n.d.)

(with G. N. Acharya) War Prose [anthology]

Contributions to periodicals: 

Bombay Chronicle (war correspondent, editor, columnist)

The Current (editor)

Daily Herald

New Statesman

Oxford Isis

Sunday Standard

Secondary works: 

Visram, Rozina, 'Karaka, Dosabhoy Framji [Dosoo] (1911–1974)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford University Press, 2013) [http://www.oxforddnb.com/index/101/101101328/]

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Archive source: 

L/I/1/1423, India Office Records, Asian and African Studies Reading Room, British Library, St Pancras