I first met Praful Bidwai in
Mumbai in 1982 when I went to
understand the historic Bombay textile strike from close quarter and write about it in Kolkata papers. He was in Times of India and I was a freelancer nurturing a hope to join regular journalism without losing my activism. He was one of my professional inspirations in leftwing/socialist journalism, votaries of which were yet to be an extinct tribe as big media was not totally corporatized at that time. He impressed me with his interests in the social-political rapport between the striking workers and peasants in districts, which helped the struggle to sustain for months. Workers' initiative for developing chawal-level leadership to fill the void for arrested leaders was another source of strength that he pointed out. At that time, I did not know his involvement in Adivasi struggles in Maharastra. We interacted regularly again when he vigorously defended struggles against land-grab in Singur and Nandigram and joined many other leftwing activist- journalists in exposing CPM's neo-liberal developmentalism.
We met again at Kudankulam and I came to know his sustained role in anti-nuclear movement across the country. Very few mainstream senior journalists have staked their career and clout by sailing with so-called anti-national grassroots movements. Modi government's first vengeful act was to leak a so-called IB report in media that questioned the credibility of the country's development dissenters in order to orchestrate witch-hunt. It listed Praful and his anti-nuke organization along with other NGOs as recipients of unaccounted and dubious foreign fund. Praful called the saffron brigade's bluff and remained steadfast in opposing Moditva.
His journalistic as well as ideo-political interests and close contacts with mainstream left and new red-green movements had put him in an unique position to study the crisis of Indian broad left as an informed but critical insider. That's why I and some other friends here collaborated with him on his book on Indian left during his Calcutta trips. During our Adda at Press Club and in our follow-up correspondence, he supported my idea of evolving a network of likeminded left-wing journalists and need for a national independent media outlet for reporting all shades of class, mass and community movements and discussing corresponding new ideas against neo-liberalism in all forms as well as ossified old left. We discussed a rekindled Frontier as one of such platforms. However, we both were painfully aware of fragmented and disparate nature of non-CPM left and how their endless nitpicking had led to miscarriage of many such dreams. Still, he wanted me to pursue the project with patience and assured his help. But before any meaningful step could be taken, Praful left.
Vol. 48, No. 1, July 12 - 18, 2015