A Tribute

Anirban Biswas



Anirban biswas, assistant Editor of Frontier is no more. He passed away in the morning of April 4, 2021, at the age of 69 after a brief illness, in his village home in Birbhum district, West Bengal. He was also one of the directors of Germinal Publications Pvt Ltd that owns Frontier. His close friends and staff at Frontier office still cannot believe the sad news of his sudden demise. He was a political sufferer because like many young men of his age he joined the Naxalite Movement in the '70s. In truth Anirban's association with Frontier dates back to his college days in Presidency. Not that he was an avid reader of Frontier. He was a committed defender of Frontier in difficult times. When CPI-ML top leader Saroj Datta issued a fatwa asking party cadres not to read Frontier Anirban and some of his friends who had close political links with CPI-ML, rebelled and refused to kowtow to Datta's dictate. They ignored the party circular and continued to support Frontier.

Anirban was a prolific writer in English as also in Bengali. Of late he was regularly writing for a bilingual monthly Purbasha Ekhon—he was editor of the English section. Purbasha Ekhon is sponsored by Nirmal Brahmachari, yet another veteran of Naxalite movement. Brahmachari is also the chief editor of this magazine. Anirban's commitment to Frontier was exemplary. He used to write political commentary almost regularly. Also, he was a good translator. He translated a number of articles from original Bengali for Frontier. When Frontier's editor Timir Basu was seriously ill last year he worked along with Rabin Chakraborty and others very hard to keep Frontier going. Writing apart he was instrumental in mobilising resources for Frontier. Sometimes, having failed to collect money from any quarters, he asked his elder brother, sister and daughter to donate subscription money to Frontier. K K Saxena of Aakar Books of Delhi sent a message immediately after hearing the news of his death: "I am shocked to know about the sad and sudden demise of Mr Anirban Biswas. Really it is a big loss to the scholarly academic world and Frontier. My heartfelt condolences to his bereaved family and may his soul rest in peace". Many readers and well-wishers of Frontier, including Pradosh Nath and Dilip Chakraborty from London,sent their messages sharing grief and agony of Frontier.  Then Vasanthi  Raman from Delhi wrote: ‘ ……I am writing to you to express my grief for the sudden and untimely death of Anirban Biswas and also to express solidarity with you. I have known Anirban Biswas ever since I came to Bengal in the early-mid eighties to get involved in political work in eastern India. What can one say about this wonderfully transparent and simple human being, known for his extraordinary humility?..........What came through so clearly was that there was no iota of rancor that he has harboured against anyone, even those he disagreed with. That was indeed a rare quality’.

Anirban was literally a crusader against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Hindutva politics and the corporates that back it. His analysis of 'India's Political Economy' in Frontier's Autumn Number 2020 is a fine piece. Some lines won't date as they deserve serious attention."…..In the country, 73 percent of the new wealth generated in 2017 went to the top one percent. In 2000 there were only 9 billionaires (in terms of dollars) in India; in 2018, there were 119 billionaires. The phenomenon was the outcome of a multiplicity of factors, including the practice of allowing large corporates to appropriate billions of bank money and giving them systematic and huge tax concessions. Common sense about justice and injustice suggests that such big bank defaulters should be sent to jail, but it is clear that the strongman with strong chest lacks the courage to do so…

Putting all the blame squarely on Maoists and Muslims cannot conceal the grimness of the economic situation, in which even the well-worn cliché of growth cannot be paraded, let alone employment generation and reduction of inequality. However much the tentacles of Hindutva are spread in different parts of the country, the economic situation is bound to give rise to much more unrest than was previously seen. The already tottering regime of fanaticism and subservience to corporate capital and Western masters is going to meet its doom. That will sound the death knell of neo-fascism in India….."

Poor health of the people is the result of a combination of factors including poverty, illiteracy, race, gender, and power relations. And on this issue he used Amartya Sen's discourse on many occasions as he did in his Autumn Number 2020 article in Frontier. Anirban writes, 'Amartya Sen brings in the powerful idea of power inequality': "Power inequalities can work in distinct ways…. The asymmetry of power can indeed generate a kind of quiet brutality… inequalities of power in general prevent the sharing of different opportunities. They can devastate the lives of those who are far removed from the levers of control. Even their own lives are dominated by decisions taken by others" (Foreword to Pathologies of Power, California University Press, 2004).

Frontier will miss him every week.

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Vol. 53, No. 42, Apr 18 - 24, 2021