Five years ago, right in the middle of the General Elections of 2009, a new bilingual magazine “by and for India’s aspiring millions”was born. So this May issue marks the fifth anniversary of FORWARD Press. We still
remain committed to the Bahujans – our issues and interests – providing both information and inspiration for those labelled “Backward” to aspire and to actually move forward, even upward, to soar.
But who and what are Bahujans, what are their deepest agonies and highest aspirations? Only literature and art can give form and voice to these. That is why FP started and continues to publish the Bahujan Literary Annual. You are holding the third one in your hand. What began as a hotly contested concept is evolving, through the FP-initiated discourse and debate, into a consensus that accepts that Bahujan Literature is a valid umbrella category. Consulting Editor Pramod Ranjan, who has coordinated and edited this annual, has summarized this evolution in his Editorial Essay. You must read it first before plunging into this issue.
Normally it is in April, when we celebrate the birth anniversaries of the two greatest Bahujan icons of modern times, Mahatma Phule and Babasaheb Ambedkar, that the Bahujan Literary Annual is published. This year, because of the Election Special in April it is being published in May. However, that does not stop us from turning to Phule for inspiration and intellectual challenge. In my readings on and by Phule I had come across his criticism and even rejection of the towering Marathi Bhakti poets. So, for this issue, I decided to dig deeper and explore the reasons why he had taken such a radical step.
While doing my research, I kept being struck by the extent and excellence of scholarship on Phule and related Marathi literary and intellectual matters. However, I realized at the same time that most of this work of translation and scholarship was available to me in English. I enquired and am told that not even 10 per cent of that would be available in Hindi.
This led to thinking about the provinciality of our literatures. Then again, India has much greater ethno-linguistic diversity than the continent of Europe. Yet there has been a tradition of translation and scholarship in at least the major European intellectual languages – German, French, and English.
In order for it to grow and mature, Bahujan literature in Hindistan needs to explore the Bahujan literatures of the rest of India. I would be so bold as to say that it needs to begin with Marathi. Bahujan scholars need to actively engage in this work. I would hope that Pune University and the Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi University* in Wardha would take the lead in hosting such exchanges. This intellectual and literary cross-pollination will serve to enrich and enliven Bahujan literature in North India and eventually across the nation. This would gladden the hearts of Phule, Ambedkar and even Gandhi.
PS: It is difficult, nay impossible, to go to press exactly three weeks before the results of the Lok Sabha elections are known, without commenting on the elections thus far. Even as Modi has filed his nomination in Varanasi, and side-kick Shah has upgraded the “wave” to a “tsunami” in UP at least, our intelligence tells us the unusually quiet Mayawati and her BSP may be the dark horse in the key state.
Published in the May 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 Bahujan (Dalit, OBC, Adivasi, Nomadic, Pasmanda) society, literature, culture and politics. Next on the publication schedule is a book on Dr Ambedkar’s multifaceted personality. To book a copy in advance, contact The Marginalised Prakashan, IGNOU Road, Delhi. Mobile: +919968527911.
For more information on Forward Press Books, write to us: firstname.lastname@example.org