Forward Press

Elegy for a magazine

Just as one who is born will die, every magazine that is launched is bound to cease publication – sooner or later. This is life. This is the tragedy of movements. This is the reality of literary and journalistic discourses. The old becomes history and we forge ties with the new. These ties give birth to new philosophies and we should allow them to bloom. Perhaps, the story of FORWARD Press was no different. The ties with the new stoked the fire of a movement and from the womb of that movement was born a powerful magazine like FP. Few people are probably aware that I was closely associated with the groundwork for the launching of the magazine. I was part of the discussion on the project at the Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, where Ivan Kostka and other members of the magazine’s team discussed it in detail. After the brainstorming in Shimla, publication of the magazine began from Delhi. Needless to say the inaugural issue forcefully asked the questions that the shrewd members of the savarna castes had always managed to push to the margins.

As an English-Hindi magazine, FP not only drew the attention of the Bahujan intellectuals but also created a stir in the savarna literary camp. And that was because of the systematic way it reached out to readers and researchers. The Manuwadi camps and the savarna cliques became restless. This was the first of the string of achievements of FP and soon it became a talking point among the intellectuals. The discourse progressed through literary and journalistic channels. As the magazine’s reach grew, it raised new questions and in turn grew in strength.

The first issue of FP that I got to read was of April 2010. I did not get the earlier issues. I also did not come to know of the launch of the magazine. I got the first issue courtesy of Pramod Ranjan. But I was happy – better late than never. If a good beginning is made from anywhere, by anyone, it should be welcomed – which I did. I joined the programmes organized by FP. I found time to write articles for it.

FP’s was a major initiative to arouse the Bahujan community, which was in deep slumber in the arms of Hindutva. It helped bring Bahujan heroes lost in the haze of history back into the limelight and called upon the Bahujans to free themselves from political slavery. It also inspired the backward and extremely backward communities, groups and castes to assert their identities. And in the next five-six years, the voice of FP only grew stronger and louder.

In the meantime, centuries-old beliefs were being challenged in different parts of the country. In Bihar, at least in two places, Mahishasur’s picture was garlanded and Samrat Ashok Vijay Diwas (Emperor Ashok’s Victory Day) was celebrated. An unsuccessful attempt was made to burn Ram’s effigy in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh. In 25 October 2012, on the evening of Dussehra, Dalits did not allow the burning of the effigy of Ravana in Odhan, a town about 30km from Sirsa.

Sometimes I feel that this quickening and intensification of the process of awakening has devoured FP. But the question is: Can Dalits not remember their heroes? Can the EBCs and OBCs not remember their own great inspirational personalities, who, at some point in time, had lent strength to them? Can we not call our forefathers, our forefathers? Have the Bahujans entered into a contract with the savarnas that they will be their slaves forever? It is not the savarnas who have to think about it, we do. Why do the savarna influencers want to blunt the edge of Bahujan consciousness? Even more important and serious question is whether the Bahujan politicians occupying the top echelons of power do not need to reflect on this situation. Why not?  Shouldn’t Dalit or Bahujan media be strengthened?

In the end, I would like to say that FP has lit a fire in the Bahujan community that will continue to rage. And this is the singular achievement of the magazine. It is revolutionary thoughts that have transformed the different communities and groups in the world. FP has brought Bahujans closer; it has helped establish a dialogue between them and has inspired them to unitedly take on the sanatani forces which have kept them enslaved for centuries. I can say with confidence that this is the not the end of FP but the beginning of a revolutionary struggle against caste discrimination and for propagating the humanitarian values of liberty, equality and fraternity. All of us should be part of this struggle and take it forward. This is where our challenge lies.

Published in the final print (June 2016) issue of the Forward Press magazine