Last year at the third anniversary celebrations of FORWARD Press, holding the first Bahujan Literary Annual (April 2012) in his hands, BAMCEF President Waman Meshram challenged us to produce a much thicker annual the next time, even if we had to charge more. Well, the good news is that this issue marks FP’s fourth anniversary which we are celebrating with a (50%) thicker second Bahujan Literary Annual – and we are not charging more for it!
If the last Annual was driven by Editor Pramod Ranjan, this time under his direction, Assistant Editor (Hindi) Pankaj Chaudhary deserves maximum credit for his editorial work. He is first of all a poet and, only secondly, a journalist. For this special issue he was ably assisted by literary journalist and editor Imtiyaz Ahmad Azad. The rest of the contributors to this Annual both well- and less-known, for and against the concept of Bahujan Literature, are too numerous to acknowledge here. This much I can assure you: all of them are worth reading and re-reading. So file and bind this Annual along with the first one if you possess a copy. If not, there are no copies left of the first Annual and we expect double that number to sell out this time.
There is hope for those who want the whole Bahujan Literature discourse between one set of covers. We plan to publish it in book form – first in Hindi, then in English – within the next year. Meanwhile, English-only FP readers, please bear with us. This Annual is 80% in Hindi because the majority of our readers are mainly Hindiwallas and the literary subject lends itself less easily to translation.
As a mature four-year-old FP continues to honour the two greatest modern Bahujan mentors. However, if our Dalit sisters and brothers wonder why, once again, only Phule adorns our cover, this time in solitary splendour, then I do have an answer. As I argued at article-length in the first Annual, Phule is the father of modern Bahujan literature. He himself was a literary writer. I am open to correction on this but, though Babasaheb has inspired generations of Dalit writers, Ambedkar himself was not a literary writer. He was certainly the greater ideologue of the two, though he himself would be the first to acknowledge his debt to Phule.
After all, as with all art forms, literature is not primarily about identity (Savarna, Dalit, OBC/Shudra, Tribal, or Bahujan) or even ideology (Marxist, Brahmanical, non-brahmanical, or Ambedkarite). Literature is about truth and beauty, about aesthetics in presenting messages. Hence all verse is not poetry, nor all prose literary – as is clearly the case here!
The cover image of Phule demands some explanation. It is inspired by the Cover Story on Phule’s first literary work, a Marathi drama titled ‘Tritiya Ratna’ (Third Jewel) or ‘Tritiya Netra’(Third Eye). I prefer the latter as it makes more explicit the rich image of Shiva’s fiery third eye that destroys ignorance and symbolizes enlightenment that comes with education, a theme at the heart of the drama. The selective borrowings from Shiva’s iconography complete the picture of Phule as Saivite figure at the hinge of history of Bahujan Literature and Culture, destroying Rudra-like the brahmanical past to make room for the birth of the new Bahujan/Balijan literature and culture.
Until next month … Truthfully
Published in the April 2013 issue of the Forward Press magazine
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