I was introduced to FP long after it began its seven-year journey. A couple of years ago, Devendra Kumar Devesh, who works in the Sahitya Akademi, suggested to me that I should send my articles to FP for publication. At the time, I was desperately looking for a magazine working for uniting the communities that are victims of the varna system and for making them socially and culturally aware. Dalit literature was there with its slogans of “social justice” and “equality” but it gave voice only to the sections that were at the lowest rung of the social ladder – who, for centuries, bore the scourge of untouchability. Tribal literature was also assuming the form of a movement. But the OBC were far behind in this respect. Writers, thinkers and activists like Jotiba Phule, Ramasamy Periyar, Mandal and Ramswaroop Verma came from among the OBCs but the OBCs had learnt nothing beyond getting united politically and voting together as a caste. They were only interested in manipulating caste equations to get a share of power. Apart from a handful of leaders, there was no one who could comprehend what cultural dominance was and how to challenge it. One reason for this was that they had this mentality of being in the “middle”, because of which they failed to identify their real comrades. When, some decades prior to Independence, they began becoming political conscious, instead of joining hands with communities lower down in the social pyramid, which, like them, were the victims of the varna system, they preferred to jump on the bandwagon of “forward” political parties like the Congress. The 1948 merger of Triveni Sangh with the Congress-backed Backward Class Federation should be seen in this light. I often recall what Thomas Paine had said about the minority elites keeping the majority of the people divided for their selfish ends. Paine has also talked about people moving back and forth between elite and non-elite sections but in a caste-based society, this kind of transfer is next to impossible.
Against this backdrop, FP coming to fore with Bahujan literature and symbols of Bahujan culture was a revolutionary initiative. I would not say that the magazine has attained what it had set out to attain or has been able to reach out to the relevant sections of people. For a big movement, seven years is just enough to prepare the ground. Therefore, I see FP’s seven-year journey akin to writing the preface of a big resolution. With its limited financial resources and sustained by the passion of some writers, FP, even in its new form, is an important achievement for those dreaming of social justice.
Published in the June 2016 issue of the Forward Press magazine