I was first introduced to FORWARD Press by Nawal Kishore at a seminar in Dayal Singh College, New Delhi, in March 2012. The report of the seminar was published in the April issue and while reading it, I got to see the magazine for the first time. FP has been raising those issues that were generally ignored. It developed the methodology for fact-based analysis of Dalit, Tribal and OBC issues. Using journalistic tools to generate sociopolitical consciousness has been its strong point. Articles by Dr Rajendra Prasad Singh, Premkumar Mani, Ashiwini Kumar Pankaj and others have showed us how to string facts and thoughts together and how to put forth arguments.
I have not heard any educated person criticizing this magazine. I have been working on the literary contributions of the backward castes and the magazine has also been doing the same. When I tried to express my disagreement with Dalit discourse adopting extremist postures, I found that no magazine was ready to give space to my views. I had sent an article on these lines to FP in 2012 but it was not published. I felt that FP was also not ready to go against the extremist Dalit discoursers.
In the literary annual of 2015, Pramod Ranjan edited the same piece in his own way and published it with the title Kabir Ki Jati Kya Thi? (What was the caste of Kabir?). Kanwal Bharti reacted sharply to it on his FB wall and said that this article should not have found space in a magazine like FP. Extremism, arbitrariness, not giving the other side an opportunity to present its views, and using abusive language against your opponents are not compatible with democracy. The Bahujan community should realize that it is democracy that is taking them on the road to progress. Weakening democracy, among other things, means weakening the Bahujan community. It is good that FP is providing an opportunity to everyone to think and write about how to make society at large better. The magazine has published articles of Dr Veer Bharat Talwar, Dr Bajrang Bihari Tiwari and Kripashankar Choubey. This openness is admirable. Most of the identity-based magazines are monologues and have nothing but expletives for those who do not agree with them. Criticism and dissent are the soul of democracy. Abusing your opponents can only give birth to fascism.
FP has made many social issues available to the academic world for research. And the questions it has been asking are not only contemporary but seek to delve into the past of the traditions that have come into being due to the interface between culture and religion, and to give them a contemporary meaning. The concept of Mahishasur Martyrdom Day, opposing celebrations of murders in the name of festivals and inculcating the consciousness of resistance – all are evidence of this magazine’s dynamic role.
Popular Hindi magazines discuss Dalit issues but don’t carry articles about the other backward castes. FP, for the first time, provided a big canvas to the writers and readers from these backward castes to write and read about the issues pertaining to backward castes. Such efforts were made earlier too but the circle of their readers was smaller and they were more about emotional, missionary zeal than about logic and reason. FP maintained its intellectual standards. Publishing English and Hindi versions side by side was no mean achievement. It gave the writers the satisfaction that their articles were becoming accessible to readers of two different languages.
Whether to stay in print or go online is a management issue. To change with times is welcome but the parameter should be whether the change is for the better, whether it taking us forward. Information about articles published in the web edition can be given to the readers by sharing them on Facebook. Even today, few people have internet and it is not possible for them to visit the website frequently. The plan to publish 24 books annually is delightful. Efforts should be made to increase the number of contributors.
Published in the final print (June 2016) issue of the Forward Press magazine