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Battling against the odds

Committed journalism against Brahmanism and casteism began in the 19th century, during the time of the Satyashodhak Samaj under the leadership of Mahatma Phule

Many Dalit bahujan intellectuals insist that this is the right time for magazines devoted to the Dalit bahujan identity and movement to expand because today a Dalit bahujan middle class has become a social reality and it is growing. When FORWARD Press probed the state of these Dalitbahujan publications, it became apparent that if these publications have survived, it is purely due to their commitment to the movement.

Committed journalism against Brahmanism and casteism began in the 19th century, during the time of the Satyashodhak Samaj under the leadership of Mahatma Phule. In 1879, Krishnarao Bhalekar launched the Deenbandhu weekly newspaper; in 1890, Mukund Rao Patil founded Deenmitra; and in 1917, Balchandra Kothari started publishing Jagrook. In Hindi, Achootanandji launched Aadi Dharma in 1923. The publication of the newspaper, Samta, began from Almora in 1934. But none of these ventures could survive for long. One by one, they all succumbed to a the lack of funds. Dr Ambedkar launched Mooknayak, Bahishkrit Bharat and Janata in 1920, 1927 and 1930, respectively. Among them, Janata lasted the longest (23 years) and its publication continued under the title Prabuddha Bharat from 1956 onwards.

Today, dozens of magazines espousing the cause of Dalit bahujan identity and movement are being brought out from Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and other states. These include Bheem Patrika, Ambedkar Mission Patrika, Dalit Today, Ambedkar in India, Adivasi Satta, Bayan, Vanchit Janata and Mookvakta. All these magazines have strengthened the campaign against Brahmanism and have helped mould public opinion. Some of these publications like Yuddharat Aam Aadmi, Hans, Jan Media, Apeksha, Dalit Dastak and Social Brainwash have even created a place for themselves in the so-called mainstream media. They are breaking the upper-caste monopoly over the ‘mainstream’ media. They have helped bring Dalit, women and tribals to the centre of literary and social concerns and discourse. Roopchand Gautam, who teaches journalism, says, “Dalitbahujan magazines are journals of human values. They are driven not by commercial considerations but by Ambedkarite commitments.” In addition, there are magazines brought out by political parties and organisations which have Shudras and Ati Shudras on their agenda and are led by Dalit bahujans. For instance, Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Janashakti Party publishes Nyaya Chakra, which is edited by Paswan himself.

Barring Hans and a couple of others, all these magazines are being sustained by individual efforts and resources and by readers committed to anti-Brahmanism. The circulation of most of these publications ranges from 300 to 3,000 and the readers subscribe to them and read them as a token of their commitment to the movement. Forward Press and Hans is definitely an exception, the circulation of which is around 10,000. Among the Dalitbahujan magazines, only a few like Bayan get advertisements from the government – the Delhi government – and the PSUs. Dayanand Nigam, who has been publishing the monthly Ambedkar in India since 1999, says, “We do get some advertisements through personal contacts but as for government officers, they begin frowning the moment they see names like Ambedkar. This tendency is worse with the Uttar Pradesh government of the day.”

Buddha Sharan Hans, editor of Ambedkar Mission, a 28-page magazine published from Patna says, “The foundation of our magazine is network – a committed network.” Since 1993, when the publication of the magazine began, its circulation has grown from 200 to 3000.

Mookvakta also relies on networking. For the last 11 years, it has been selling between 3,000 and 5,000 copies. Moolchand, the first national president of Kanshiram’s BAMCEF, is the publisher-editor of the magazine and it is because of BAMCEF that it is continues to be published and its circulation is growing. Moolchand says that the procedure of obtaining government advertisements is “quite humiliating”, so he doesn’t even try it.

Talking about the poor financial condition of Dalitbahujan magazines, media analyst and journalist Anil Chamadia says, “In 1878, The Hindu was launched. In 1883, Retamalai Shriniwasan founded Dalit magazine Parayan. The circulation of The Hindu touched 800 only in 1905 while 400 copies of Parayan were sold within two days of its first issue coming in the market. But Parayan only survived till 1900 while The Hindu got a new owner and is being published till now.” And this is not the condition of only Hindi Dalit-bahujan magazines. Bhumika, which was launched during the days of the Dalit Panthers movement, has ceased publication. Dainik Samrat, after its grand launch from Mumbai, is struggling for survival.

However, it remains a fact that commitment and networking can help one achieve a great deal. An example of this is the Marathi magazine Maratha Marg based on Phule-Ambedkarite ideology and published by Maratha Sewa Sangh. According to feminist thinker Nutan Malvi, today there is a big middle class among Dalitbahujans. “With better commitment and professionalism, our magazines can challenge the mainstream media,” she says.

The Hindi magazines and their editors have a love-hate relationship with Leftist ideology. Many editors have a Leftist background but at the same time they are vocal against domination of Brahmanism in Leftist movements. Apeksha’s Editor Tej Singh says, “As many as 43 issues of Apeksha, which is centred on literature and ideology, have been brought out till date. Our magazine has not only made its presence felt but has also floated many new ideas and theories. We closely relate to the Leftist ideology. I have been a member of the CPM. But, at the same time, where necessary, we haven’t shied away from being critical. We are going to bring out an issue on SR Bali, editor of Bheem magazine.”

Yuddharat Aam Aadmi’s Editor Ramnika Gupta says, “Many issues of Yuddharat Aam Aadmi, focusing on Dalits and tribals, have been published. We have brought out special numbers on Dalit creative writing in languages other than Hindi. We have discovered many a writer and introduced them to the world of Hindi literature. The Delhi government invited us and gave us advertisements. I believe that no magazine becomes a Dalit-bahujan magazine merely because it is being published by a Dalit-bahujan. It should be committed to Ambedkarite-Phule ideology too. The credit for bringing Dalit-women discourse centre stage is given to Hans. But that is only because it happened to be published from Delhi. Much before shifting its base to Delhi in 2000, Yuddharat Aam Aadmi had started working in that direction. At that time our magazine was published from Hazaribagh.”

(The saga of the struggle of some more Dalitbahujan magazines in the next issue of FORWARD Press)


Published in the April 2014 issue of the Forward Press magazine

Forward Press also publishes books on Bahujan issues. Forward Press Books sheds light on the widespread problems as well as the finer aspects of the Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) community’s literature, culture, society and culture. Contact us for a list of FP Books’ titles and to order. Mobile: +919968527911, Email: info@forwardmagazine.in

About The Author

Sanjeev Chandan

Sanjeev Chandan, editor of leading feminist magazine Streekaal, is known for his feminist-Ambedkarite writings. He has been writing on current affairs for BBC and several Hindi newspapers and magazines. His collection of stories 546veen Seat ke Stri and poetry collection Stree Drishti are under publication.

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