Journey For Fiftytwo Years

Frontier Having No Rest

Asok Chattopadhya

[Days pass by. Relics stay behind. Wind blows. Yellow dust dances in a madding mood. Relics are wrapped under. But they stay alive. History sighs deep. Nocturnal sky winks at the dark night on to the earth. Times, left back, get up donned with the relics resting under the dust. They speak out for the treasures of the past, decades of the gone bye years with the dazzling events. And thus willy-nilly Samar Sen comes out armed with his Frontier and chants for a world yet to win.

Armed with Frontier he set out to win a prestigious journalism of the other side of the sky. Dared enough he waged war against the yellow journalism of the day on the run and read the languages of blood and soil of the people on the battlefield during the tumultuous period of the late sixties of the twentieth century. Come April 14, this Frontier shall start a glorious journey for fifty two years of undaunted courage and fray onwards.]

Samar Sen bade good bye to his days of poetry only when he was in his mid-twenties. He in his teens came in contact with Marxist philosophy in the periphery of his domestic environment. The two reputed Marxists like Bankim Mukherjee and Radha Raman Mitra influenced him much with their erudition, simplicity and life style. Once Samar Sen emotionally thought to be wedded to the then CPI and later retreated for his own limitations he discovered. Never did he enter into any party office as member rather remained into close affinity with the leftist ideology which he in no way and never shun till his last days of life. He stuck to his Marxist ideology from the core of his heart and was ever critical of the misdoings that the party did. He was unafraid of doing so. And thus he earned many a foe within the left circle itself.

One of the widely famous intellectual of the thirties of the twentieth century Bengal wrote an article published in the Amrita Bazar Patrika on June 13, 1937, wherein he branded Samar Sen, 'a modern poet' but in no way a 'progressive'. This critic was fond of designing himself Marxologist rather than a Marxist. And this Marxologist found nothing creative in Samar Sen's poetry and said:
'No poet can be creative unless he is basically charged with the sense of history, with dynamics of creation. I do believe that…the litterateur has a definitely creative social role to play through his pen…He has dedicated his first work to Muzaffar Ahmad. I pray that it should mean something more than a mere personal allegiance…. He needs to be progressive by informing himself with a sense of history'.

This time Samar Sen was a young man of twenty one years of age. It is not known whether he wrote any reply or rejoinder of that article, but on July 4, just after three weeks, he wrote in the same Amrita Bazar Patrika in connection with a review article on Jeebananda Das's Dhusar Pandulipi that the poet Jeebanananda looked the 'ruin and decay' of the soil of India, under the reign of the British Government 'from a magic casement'. The struggle ongoing throughout the world against fascist onslaught hardly touched him. He was able enough to compose 'memorable lines about the fairy lands' though 'social content' was not totally absent in his poetical works. In this article Samar Sen wrote:
'To-day we are all upon a wheel of fire, and there is a stronger temper in the air. We cannot possibly, step aside, retreat to an ivory tower'.

It's not known of whether that very Marxologist got through this article of Samar Sen and found out something apprehendable for his concern.

Samar Sen had to undergo many a combatant mood of his friends not from outside the leftists in the late thirties, forties of the twentieth century Bengal. Even later it went on ceaselessly. But never was he disillusioned with the Marxist philosophy. Rather he took this ideology as his world view and the pioneering principle to wage war against the social disorder, oppressors, tyrannical governments, rightwing politics, left opportunists and ultra lefts. He was almost a lone warrior in the battlefield with his Frontier.

In the year 1935 Samar Sen ventured to publish a journal namely Today along with some of his classmates of the fourth year of his college. This journal was hailed by the college magazine itself. This journal went off the beaten track. Articles and reviews published in this journal invited ire of some others of the time. It actually indicated something mapping for his activities in the days to come.

In the later years he was attached to a Delhi college, AIR (All India Radio) not for long. He worked for the Hindustan Standard of Kolkata (then Calcutta), The Statesman even in the FLP (foreign language publications) in Moscow. All these assignments could not rest him at ease. His uncompromising attitude and Marxist inclination with honest-in-deed caused him bidding goodbye after a short period. Afterwards he was awarded the assignment of the editor of the weekly Now of Prof Humayun Kabir in the year 1964. Under his editorial performance Now came to light on the October 9, 1964. Now earned much popularity and reputation within a short time. But here too his left-leaning politics and sympathy to the Naxalite uprising in the May 1967 showed Samar Sen the door to exit. In his first editorial of Now Samar Sen wrote:
'This weekly will not be committed to any party or dogma… Our commitment will be to certain principles, proclaimed in the Constitution and often in the public speaking, but not always practiced'.

Here, it appears, Samar Sen was then fond of non-committal to any political 'party or dogma' and was eager to find out the discrepancies between kept-promises and practical opposites of the political leaders. He wanted the constitutional proclamations to have been practised. Perhaps it was a tactic he unfurled. And his leftism began blooming in the sphere of the confused time of India and abroad. Food movement of the sixty six, United Front Government in the state of West Bengal, peasant movement and the spring thunder of Naxalbari of the North Bengal, the negative role of the CPIM leaders towards these peasant movements, an unforeseen spread of revolt throughout the land of India and at a time the students movements in France, Vietnam's liberation war against American Imperialism, Cultural Revolution in China led by Mao Ze Dong and degeneration of the Soviet Communist Party taught him much real than the reel. He along with his bunch of left intellectual army ventured to peep into the other side of the moon. And he was sacked as the editor of Now because of his 'overtly leftist leanings.'

Yet he failed to submit to the despairing mire of darkness. On the contrary he decided to start a new weekly just from where he was debarred to continue Now. With a meagre capital he dared to launch a de novo weekly and Frontier came into public on April 14, 1968. In the first editorial of this new born babe, Samar Sen wrote 'Pause in Vietnam.' But one of his the then associates wrote in this first issue of Frontier in the columns of 'Calcutta Diary':
'Here we surface again. We have a different address and different mast-head, otherwise everything is very nearly the same'.

That is to say Frontier started just from where Now went off from the hands of Samar Sen. The fire he ignited in Now had been in its full flames in Frontier. The Statesman wrote in its 15th April issue (1968) that the first issue of Samar Sen's Frontier 'seems as lively and as controversial as his earlier weekly used to be.'

Samar Sen was bold enough to ventilate his views in the yellow pages of Frontier and cared a fig for whether it did hurt the right opportunists or the left adventurists. He was true to his ideological stand far from any illusion. His Frontier became the platform of left intellectuals of many hues along with the Naxalites. He sharply criticised the constitutional pseudo left for their capitulation to capitalism and on the contrary he did not hesitate to react sharply the worst misdoings and adventurist practices of the Naxalites. Samar Sen published in Frontier on May 17, 1969 an article of Sumanta Banerjee entitled 'Naxalbari between yesterday and tomorrow' wherein it read:
'THE Naxalbari movement that began as a heroic upsurge, although abortive, back in May 1967, now seems to be dominated by city bred adolescents who shout the borrowed language of popular insurrections. Some think that the rot set in when the centre of the struggle shifted from the countryside to Calcutta, that the revolutionary organisation which it sought to create has been rapidly swallowed by the routine of Bengali middleclass political life'.

On February 10, 1970 his old pal and Naxalite leader Saroj Dutta bitterly bantered Samar Sen's Frontier to be a dangerous Maoist dome! He wrote in the pages of Deshabrati, the Bengali mouthpiece of the CPI(ML), that the so-called 'Maoists' of different hues assembled into Frontier. They did have the only motto to prove and confuse the revolutionary intellectuals as to how the CPI(ML) led by Charu Majumder were going to astray in spite of the teachings of Mao. Saroj Dutta even branded Frontier to be one of the three watchdogs of the ruling class!

Saroj Dutta, a diehard communist partisan began confronting Samar Sen since forties of the nineteenth century. Ab initio Saroj Dutta behaved Samar Sen as an enemy far from recognising him his onetime chum. Samar Sen did never join the Communist Party but always remained to the close affinity of the party's cultural activities. On the other hand Saroj Dutta, an active party member of the then CPI, was much more inclined and advocated for partisan culture which Samar Sen did never share. Saroj Dutta's dedication to party interest remained unquestionable ever till the last days of his life. But his impatience and extremist approach did never attract Samar Sen. Yet Samar Sen was cool enough to counter his pal's views. Saroj Dutta could never be accustomed to review his stands he exposed in the days of the bygone forties ever in future and as such his unfriendliness towards a genuine left intellectual like Samar Sen did never die out. He failed to sense Frontier and its editor at all and so to speak he did never wanted to do so. He used to abuse Frontier and its editor off and on stamping it to have been camped with the enemy of Indian revolution! But Samar Sen remained cool ever to counter Saroj Dutta harshly. The assassination of Saroj Dutta by the police in the Siddhartha Roy's fascist regime in West Bengal in the garbed dark night of August 4, 1971 shocked Samar Sen deeply.

After the gone-off days of Saroj Dutta, Samar Sen was alive for long sixteen years. He trotted the stormy and rainy days during the bloody seventies and the so-called left regime almost a lone soldier with the Frontier being his dreadful weapon as arms. Many of his onetime friends and associates left him; on the other hand many a new crusader came and stood by him with their all-out efforts in practice.

Samara Sen was vexed with the role of the Bengali intellectuals in the gory days of the seventies. Emergency was declared on June 25, 1975 and arrest of opposition leaders came into being. White terror began reigning over the land of India. Most of the Bengali intellectuals then buried their voice of protest in dark and became loyal spectators. The editorial column of Frontier revealed on February 28, 1976: 'One of the pleasant surprises of our many-splendored emergency has been the emergence of Mr Sanjay Gandhi on the national political scene'. On March 11, Samar Sen wrote in the pages of his diary: 'The Bengali left has proved itself to be worthless—Indifferent, almost apolitical, interested in merry-making... Even... reactionary...' After three weeks had passed, the press of the Frontier kept sealed by the police on April 2. The April 3 issue was 'blocked'. Many of his well-wishers then 'advised' Samar Sen to cease the publication of Frontier. As a great number of people including Bengali intellectuals became the mere spectators of the white terror unleashed by the fascist Congress Government if not supporters, the continuance of the publication of Frontier was but of a 'little use'. But Samar Sen differed to accede. Frontier came to the public again on June 5 only with the one forma edition as was ready for pub but could not. It was declared on behalf of Frontier :
'The material appearing in this number was ready for publication on April 1. One forma had already been printed. But for reasons beyond our control we could not bring it out. The break in continuity is deeply regretted. We hope to resume regular publication soon'.

14th April 1976 was the eighth birthday anniversary of Frontier. As press got sealed by the police and publication of Frontier sustained an off-the-desk, the stipulated editorial was compelled to have a leave. It however got published in 10th July issue which read:
'...we complete our eighth year. We should have done it in mid-April, but that is another matter. We do hope however, that we will survive the ninth year. At the beginning, in April 1968 it was an exciting challenge and the magazine had a hardcore of loyal and regular leader writer…The leader writers, with the shining exception of one or two, dropped out one by one, some for ideological reasons, others for personal compulsions…one or two left the country, promising continued co-operation…the editor is still grateful to them all for their past co-operation, and feels that may be there is something pigheaded in his own self that drives off people…many other came in, both Indians and foreigners. Without them, it would have been impossible to keep the magazine going…'

On September 9, Mao Ze Dong expired. Samar Sen repented for doing nothing in the 11 September issue of Frontier.

Despite his deep respect and sympathy with the Naxalite movement Samar Sen was bold enough to criticise the considerable wrong-doings or excesses practised in their movement of class enemy annihilations and hyperbole. When Charu Majumder, the 'creator' of Naxalite movement, asserted that the red army would march over the banks of Bhagirathi so sooner, Frontier sarcastically wrote that it could have been better if mountains had been moved by faith only! Such a faith enthused many youngsters jumping into the blazing fire pricing nothing less. The intolerant and firebrand Naxalite leaders and workers misunderstood Frontier and its editor as their friend rather than a friend and sympathizer.

However the cloud dispersed later when state repression rained in torrents and corpses and blood scattered in the open spaces during the days and nights of the seventies. In these perilous days many a Naxalite came closer to Frontier. Almost all the constitutional left parties stood by the ruling Government and their party-hooligans, joined to a combined operation to wipe out the Naxalites. Publications of Deshabrati and Liberation, the Bengali and English mouthpiece of the Naxalites respectively, faced tougher situation to continue their publications. This time Frontier played an important role of its being a platform of communications between the scattered Naxalite groups and leaders spending their days in jails or underground. It served much positive for their unity process. Renowned Naxalite leader Nagbhusan Pattanayak wrote in the pages of Frontier with a call for unity. Vinod Misra, another Naxalite leader, responded: 'Unite we shall'. And thus Samar Sen's Frontier took a historic role to serve the cause of Indian revolution.

Samar Sen was neither a committed Naxalite nor a Maoist but a devout Marxist indeed. From the days of his youth he was attracted to Marxism and got it flooded in his thought process, life style, activities and the uncompromising way onwards. He did never bow to the CPI or CPM even during their heydays during the last decade of his life. Rather he dreamt a new dream when the spring thunder stormed in Naxalbari and the uprising of the peasants came on the fore. He wrote on June 16, 1978:
'Naxalbari exploded many a myth and restored faith in the courage and character of the revolutionary left in India. It seemed that the ever-yawning gap between precept and practice since Telengana would be bridged… Frontier became associated with the movement. …The Naxalite movement has been defeated, but not routed. A process of rethinking is on'.

Here Samar Sen cleared his stance with no smog left behind. He was hopeful to witness a united platform of the Naxalites. But his expectation remains still too far. A long period has so far been passed after he breathed his last on August 23, 1987.

A senior journalist wrote in the Autumn Number 2016 of Frontier addressing Samar Sen a 'reluctant hero.' He wrote that Samar Sen was 'soft spoken, unheroic, but resolute defender of the simple virtues of truthful journalism'.

In the early sixties of the nineteenth century Bengal another Bengali intellectual Kangal Harinath Majumder published a Bengali Journal of 'truthful journalism.' His Grambarataprokashika was the exceptionally daring to ventilate exact reports of the then villagers curbing under the inhuman oppression of the Zamindars, Nilkars, police etc and at times their combined forces. His life was under serious threat again and again, but he never was cowed down and cared it for.

A century had passed and people found another uncompromising Samar Sen armed with his Frontier waging relentless war against many a social odd. Another Kangal Harinath emerged in the twentieth century Bengal unfurling fray against yellow journalism.

Samar Sen is no more with physical presence today. But his Frontier still remains with its entire valour under the captaincy of his descendant Timir Basu who expenses all his energy and ability along with his active associates, be the numbers down. Frontier had already completed its journey of prolong fifty years on April 14, 2018. Come April 14 and Frontier shall perform its unput-downable fifty one year's completion and a glorious journey for fifty two years onwards.

In debt to Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay we may say : 'A good breeze is blowing. Let's come hoisting the flag and write on it : Frontier.

Vol. 51, No. 42, Apr 21 - 27, 2019