Here Lived An Editor, An Activist
By Farooque Chowdhury
04 February, 2013
Dipankar Chakroborty has passed away. It’s already been a few days. Busy days are moving past. Moving are the wings of time.
But the question comes up: who he was?
Dipankar Chakroborty (1941-2013) was a friend of Bangladesh, a friend of Baangaalee. He cherished a prosperous Bangladesh, a Bangladesh free from all forms of external influence and intervention.
Dipankar Chakroborty, a veteran of the Left movement since the sixties, was founder-editor of Aneek (1964 - ), the leading independent left Bangla monthly that raised socio-political issues for debate and learning.
Aneek, under Chakroborty’s editorship took a stand during the days of our Great War of Liberation: Bangladesh people’s struggle free from influences of all geopolitical interests. Bangladesh people should be allowed to exercise their right to self-determination free from all forms of external influence and interference.
Book fairs were organized in Murshidabad in the early-1980s. In 1991, cultural program in observance of 21st of February was organized in Baharampur. As son of this soil, Dipankar was one of the organizers of these activities.
The Committee to observe 21st of February organized cultural program in Talibpur, the Murshidabad village Barkat, one of our martyrs in the Great Language Movement, was born. It was organized to pay respect to the martyr and in memory of our language movement. Dipankar was one of the initiators, planners and organizers. Talibpur villagers felt proud. And, we, the Bangladesh people conveyed the message, through Dipankar: We don’t forget our martyrs.
Bangladesh was in his heart. The land pulled him. On occasions of Ekushey Book Fair, he used to visit Bangladesh.
Hailing from Munshiganj, Dipankar had to leave Bangladesh, then East Pakistan in 1947. The factor was the 1947-partition. Baharampur, the headquarters of Murshidabad district of Paschimbanga, turned out the place of his childhood and days of activism with Student Federation. Baharampur and Kolkata, the places of his academic education, influenced his sociopolitical activism organizing youth and cultural movement, Vietnam Day program, debate and film societies.
There came the Spring Thunder over India, the Naxalbari uprising, and birth of the CPI (ML) under the leadership of Charu Majumdar. But Chakroborty did not join the new party. He made Aneek an independent forum for debates on issues related to contemporary communist movement at national and international levels.
Aneek came out regularly from Baharampur. In its later years its place of publication was shifted to Kolkata as Chakroborty had to settle in the city to avail medical facility there.
For about half-a century he edited the monthly without missing a single issue. Exceptions were his two years of imprisonment during the emergency. In a hostile socioeconomic environment accompanied by market-based decadent culture it’s no small feat. The task turned difficult as the journal kept itself free from all political groups, factions and parties and did not rely on advertisements. However, Aneek turned out as the largest circulated journal among its type. It had to rely on its readers spread across frontiers.
Aneek, with about 500 issues including about 100 special issues till today, has raised important socio-political-cultural questions. A few were raised for the first time in Bangla political literature. The questions the monthly covered included Asiatic society, ancient rural society, share croppers’ movement, land reform, communalism, parliamentary politics, social imperialism, the Moscow-Peking Great Debate, Cultural Revolution, globalization, environment, specialized economic zone. Cultural personalities involved with people’s movement were also extensively covered by Aneek. It turned out as a source of knowledge for learners.
Dipankar steered through the tumultuous path of political education and agitation with an orientation to people and the poor. In this path he used to follow Marxism-Leninism and Mao Thought as his guiding principle. Thus he kept himself free from the Khrushchevites, and later from Namboodiripad, Basavapunnaiah and co. As editor of Aneek, Chakroborty played an important role in educating activists.
Mao-thought inspired him. His felt need led him to translate the famous operas produced during the Cultural Revolution: The Red Lantern, On the Shanghai Dock. Similarly, he translated a book on Long March, couple of essays by Paul M Sweezy and edited a collection of Bangla-translated essays by Sweezy.
A political commentator with a sharp pen Chakroborty had several books to his credit. His books on the so-called Bengal Renaissance, economy of imperialism, socialism and class struggle, and essay on Subhas Bose led many to re-assess long-accepted position. The same practice led him to serialize Badruddin Umar’s book on Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar in Aneek.
A life-long defender of human rights, he was also one of the founders of Association for Protection of Democratic Rights and its vice-president. Always active in people’s movements Chakroborty had a pioneering role in civil rights movement and campaigns for release of political prisoners since the seventies.
Despite failing health he actively took part in movements to defend human and political rights. Organizing mass mobilizations and people’s hearings were a few of his many types of activism. Mahasveta Devi, the noted novelist-activist, Amiya Bagchi, the noted economist, Medha Patkar, the noted environment activist, joined programs initiated by Dipankar.
His major efforts included informing wider society, widening cultural space, raising ideological issues, questioning status quo.
A socio-cultural-political space allowed Dipankar to carry on his activism and raise voice. An enlightened faction of middle class extended him support in the form of readership. Scores of authors contributed carefully-composed essays to Aneek. These kept the journal alive. It’s an achievement of Chakroborty’s editorship.
As a teacher of economics at Krishnanath College, Baharampur, Chakroborty actively took part in organizing college teachers. As editor, he took part in journalist union. During drought and epidemic, he organized relief work in the rural areas and cultural function in urban area to generate relief fund. One of the founders of Peoples' Books Society, a major publication house, Chakroborty was an enthusiast of Little Magazine movement in Paschimbanga, India.
Activism and journalism were integral part of his life. It’s difficult to identify the dominant: editor Dipankar or activist Dipankar. His journalism was part of his activism. Activism of new generation will keep Chakroborty’s work alive.
Farooque Chowdhury freelances from Dhaka.
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