by Nirmal Brammachari
Frontier | Vol. 51, No.13, Sep 30 – Oct 6, 2018
The weekly Frontier has completed its fiftieth year in April, this year. I do not know of any Bengali or English periodical published from Kolkata to have played a progressive role on Indian and international affairs for such a long time. It is particularly remarkable that its publication was started by the illustrious poet, Samar Sen. Frontier was not published as the organ of any political party or group, and it continues to retain its independence till date. Samar Sen wielded his strong pen in the then existing political situation. His razor-sharp language, criticims and comments on important events were already well-known. In editing Frontier, he transformed with elegance this work into regular and professional journalism. At that time, the Bengali Deshabrati and other political journals were being published regularly. But Samar Sen filled a need, that of spreading radical thought among readers beyond Bengal’s border. In other states of India, many English dailies and weeklies were published; but most of them were organs of political institutions or servants of exploiting and ruling classes. As against them, this English weekly, published from Kolkata and embodying an original approach, undoubtedly evoked a good deal of response. By focusing on the popular struggles, whether of the peasantry or of workers or of students and youths, then going on in different states including West Bengal, Samar Sen set a bright example of honest journalism through Frontier. Before the birth of Frontier, when Samar Sen was editing another weekly, NOW, a non-Congress United Front ministry was installed in West Bengal with Ajay Mukherjee as the Chief Minister and Jyoti Basu as the Deputy Chief Minister. Harekrishna Konar, the firebrand revolutionary belonging to the CPI(M), was the minister for land reforms, at whose behest the movement of poor peasants at Naxalbari was gunned down, killing peasant women. The radical section of the CPI(M), led by Charu Majumdar, correctly came out against it. The historic uprisimg against the might of the landlords and the state was led by Kanu Sanyal, Jangal Santal, Khokan Majumdar, Babulal Viswa- karmakar etc. Every issue of Deshabrati published sharp and inflamatory writings by Charu Majumdar, Sushital Raychaudhuri, Saroj Datta, along with the call for revolurionary movement. Alongside, Frontier published many valuable articles and comments, both supporting and criticising the new trend. The horizon of these writings spread to other states and abroad. Thus Samar Sen played an extraordinary role in India’s intellectual world. Some writings were critical, not in total agreement with the Naxalite politics and its leaders; nevertheless they were valuable, although debatable. Notes of caution were uttered on some aspects of infantile disorder in radical politics. But they were not of the ‘time is yet to come’ type nor were they products of the revisionist or parliamentary outlook of the CPI(M). Samar Sen’s sharp pen echoed the voices of protest mainly against the reactionary politics of the Indian state and government, and their authoritarianism and widespread extrajudicial killings in the name of protecting democracy. The value of the articles and criticisms that were then published in Frontier from an independent outlook and in the light of personal experiences was very much important among the middle-classes and intellectuals, which was independent of any other English journal and thus had a unique place in the world of journals.
As a poet, Samar Sen, in his youth, reflecteed himself in the bright ray of genius and had he continued with his poetical pursuits, he could have become one of the leading poets of Bengal. But he went into self-imposed exile from the world of poetry and acquired fame also as an essayist in the English language. His poetic talent drew the notice of the great Rabindranath Tagore himself. Bishnu Dey and other contemporary poets too respected his talented pen, and waited for the realisation of his potential. Of course, the historic debate that began on the question of Marxist literature led to direct confrontation and acrimonious exchanges with Saroj Datta. According to their closer circles, they later on subsided and became friendly and comradely. The words and comments made by Professor Hiren Mukherjee on poet-journalist Samar Sen are also definitely worth mentioning, and testify to Samar Sen’s leftist wisdom. To return to Frontier, many illustrious professors, journalists, essayists and activists contributed to Frontier. Many of them are alive, although some are dead. For a long time, these extraordinary writers and analysts have been enriching Frontier, and one hopes, not against hope that they will continue to do so as long as they live.
In conclusion, this contributor wishes to emphasise that at present, Frontier is plagued with various financial and other constraints. We, on behalf of Antarjatik Prakashan and Purbasha Ekhan (Purbasha Now) and Shudhu Purbasha (Only Purbasha), have extended our helping hand to Frontier and its bold and struggling editor. We wish many other like-minded persons and organisations to come forward. Let us keep such a progressive journal alive and proceed towards a ruddier horizon.