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My two and a half years in FORWARD Press

Two contributions of this magazine are truly historic – one, discovering the real Mahishasur and second, introducing Bahujan literature as a new literary stream. These are two milestones in its so far

After working for FORWARD Press for about two and a half years, I have decided to call it quits. During my time here, I saw the magazine switch from print to web. A

Sanjeev Chandan’s gets a warm send-off from his FP colleagues

web-based publication has its own complexities and demands more time and dedication. That is one of the reasons I have decided to free myself from the responsibilities of FP Hindi editor. FP had also decided to enter into the field of book publishing and my own Marginalised Publications has forged a joint venture with it.

My association with FP gave me the opportunity to work with an editorial leadership that was dedicated and had a clear vision. This experience was very enriching, encouraging and useful. Ivan Kostka is a sensitive and an alert person. For Pramod Ranjan, journalism and editing is a passion. Journalism is a mission, a commitment for him, with objectivity as the cornerstone.

Pramod Ranjan has been a friend for as long as I can remember – before I became associated with FP, during my time there and today that I have ceased to be its Hindi editor. When at work, like a committed leader, he tried to get the required editorial output from me while ensuring that the atmosphere was friendly and our personal spaces were given due respect. On my part, I tried my best not to encroach upon his jurisdiction and workspace, which friendship sometimes tends to make you do.

It was in October 2014 that Pramod Ranjan invited me on board FP as Hindi Editor. Since 2012, I had already been writing for the magazine almost regularly. Due to my other engagements, Pramod ji said he would give me the privilege of coming to office only when the magazine was ready to go to press, that is, at the most four days in a month. But I was still reluctant to accept the offer immediately. I sought two-three months’ time from him to think it over. At the time, he was with me for almost a week. He was underground following the filing of a case against FP. It did not take him long to understand my nature. He told me that I was in the habit of putting off decisions. “You should join within a week”, he said. I agreed. Thus began my journey with FP.

Until then, I was a just a contributor to the magazine. Becoming a part of it was a different experience altogether. By the time I joined, the magazine’s focus had shifted from news to analyses and views. That had changed the nature of work. During my stint at FP, I added many new names to the list of contributors. Two Bahujan literary annuals were published in my time. Pramod ji wanted the articles in the Bahujan literary annuals to focus on establishing Bahujan literature as a distinct stream. Ivan Kostka rarely intervened during the work on regular issues. As far as the literary annuals were concerned, his intervention was almost non-existent.

Till the magazine went to press and the ferro was proofed, Ivan Kostka kept a close eye on the English half. He had an eye for detail and he never missed giving the drafts a close reading whether he was in office, at home, elsewhere in India or abroad. Even as we worked through the nights, we were ready for his “STOP PRESS” emails. This was his favourite tagline when drawing our attention to a typo or other mistakes.

Sanjeev Chandan wrote the cover story for the August 2015 issue

In these two and a half years (although within one and a half years of my joining, in June 2017, the magazine switched from print to online), I wrote some cover stories, including NDA “Dalitbahujan leaders: Neither here nor there” and “Knocking at the castle of knowledge”. The first one was purely political while the other was about the growing presence of Dalitbahujans in the academic arena.

That the magazine was quite popular became evident to me when, after the announcement of the suspension of its print edition, I received many phone calls from different places asking me to request the management to continue the print edition. I realized that in a very short time, FP had become the voice of Dalitbahujan India – the harbinger of its cultural assertion.

Sanjeev Chandan’s cover story in the February 2015 issue

My stint with FP altered many of my earlier perceptions. For instance, till I joined the magazine I believed that the magazine was, at least partially, funded by Christian organizations. But later I realized that while its proprietors may be staunch Christians, Christian bodies do not control its finances. As the editor-in-chief I never saw Ivan Kostka thrust his personal beliefs on the content. It was Pramod Ranjan who took most of the editorial decisions and he happens to be an atheist.

Working with FP meant spending much more time with Pramod Ranjan than I would have done as just a friend. I could understand and observe Pramod ji as a friend, a human being, an editor and thinker more closely. Pramod ji is an intellectual who has own take on issues and events and has the courage of being original in his thinking without coming under the pressure of current conventional wisdom. He avoids speaking from public platforms and generally doesn’t talk much. But he is an intellectual who has the ability to provide intellectual leadership to the Bahujans and is ready to take on the mantle. He finds monotony tiring but is not for intellectualism that believes in creating a sensation. He seems to me like a restless intellectual who does not fight shy of breaking free from the established moulds. He is committed to his work. He reads every word of what is published, edits it closely and ensures that it is presented as well as possible. He is also generous enough to take responsibility for mistakes committed by his team.

Two contributions of this magazine are truly historic – one, discovering the real Mahishasur and second, introducing Bahujan literature as a new literary stream. These are two milestones in FP’s journey so far.

I remember the time when Smriti Irani, then minister of human resources development, launched a tirade against Mahishasur and the proponents of his greatness in Lok Sabha and almost silenced the opposition. At the time, Pramod Ranjan and the rest of us – designer and tribal rights activist Rajan Kumar, Anil Varghese and I – not only briefed opposition leaders on the Bahujan cultural revolution, but also made material available to the media so as to ensure that the battle did not remain one-sided. The next day, when Irani spoke on the same subject in the Rajya Sabha, she was much more subdued. And stories on the nationwide tradition of venerating Mahishasur started appearing in the mainstream media.

Working with cool and composed but sensitive English editor Anil Varghese was also a new experience for me. Amrish Herdenia, who was miles away from us in Bhopal, made his presence felt through his translations. He calmly shared the rush and the tension of the days just before going to press. Some of his questions were very interesting. One day, well beyond midnight, when we were immersed in work, he called me up and asked me, “Are you married?” I answered his question and he hung up, leaving all of us to figure out how and why he needed the answer to this question at that point in time.

We all have great affection for Rajan, the designer of the magazine. One reason for this is that he is much younger than all of us and the second was his candidness. We were together at the office only four or five days a month but Dhananjay and Chandrika took loving care of us. They were just like family.

Most importantly, I was impressed by the dedication of Silvia Kostka. Everyone who has worked for FP has a feeling of gratitude for her affectionate personality – and I am one of them. She took personal care of me. She was always concerned about me and my family

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. 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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