Who was the person who had a clear inkling of the impending row over Mahishasur more than week before it actually happened? Who had a clear comprehension of the Sangh-BJP-Police nexus? Who knew in advance that as soon as the session of Parliament commences, the government will use the JNU Mahishasur-Durga episode to defend itself on the Rohith Vemula and JNU issues? The groundwork for this was done through the IB report, which simply parroted the opinion of the Sangh and its auxiliary organisations on the observance of ‘Mahishasur Martyrdom Day”. It had been decided in advance that the IB report will be used by the government to throttle the Dalit-Bahujan voice by branding the celebrations of Mahishasur Day as a doing of the Maoists and would try to whip up religious sentiments on the issue.
Pramod Ranjan, our friend and the editor of Forward Press had discussed this possibility with me and told me that we should try to brief at least one or two MPs about this conspiracy of the government so that the Brahmanical-Hindutvavadi assault on the Bahujan cultural movement can be resisted to some extent. And we did call on a couple of MPs and briefed them.But it was easier said than done. When Smriti Irani, in her melodramatic speech, began to emotionally exploit the name of ‘Durga’ and sought to invoke the famous Durga cultural consciousness of West Bengal, no one could challenge the Minister. It seemed as if the members of the Lok Sabha had lost their tongue. At that time, we were together, giving final touches to the March issue of Forward Press in the magazine’s office. Pramod Ranjan immediately started getting calls from his well-wishers. He was advised to keep mum on the issue as the government was dead set against this celebration and it would face no resistance in the Lok Sabha, overflowing with Dwij, non-Dwij MPs living under the terror of the Brahmanical culture. It may be mentioned here that the Brahmanical-Hindutvavadi forces had got a criminal case registered against Forward Press way back in 2014 on the Mahishasur-Durga issue. At that time, Pramod Ranjan and Ivan Kotska, the editor-in-chief of the magazine had to go underground and secure anticipatory bail from a court to escape arrest.
Pramod Bhai could have very conveniently kept mum and immerse himself in the work of the magazine. How was he concerned with what was happening in Parliament? Most of the organisers of Mahishasur Martyrdom Day in JNU had back-tracked after the registration of a case of sedition against JNU students and IB linking it with anti-national activities. The pamphlet Smriti Irani was waving in Parliament seemed to be suspicious. I could sense Pramod Bhai unease. Ultimately, he decided that Parliament and the media should know the truth.
And then, we five or six persons sitting in the office, saw how Pramod Ranjan started briefing the media on this issue. He made a photograph showing the BJP MP Udit Raj participating in a Mahishasur Martyrdom Day function available to the media. He consistently fed relevant facts to journalists. A welcome development followed. On Pramod Ranjan’s request, Anil Kumar, one of the organisers of the Martyrdom Day agreed to convey to the media that the pamphlet Irani was showing was not put up by the organisers of the event. We again contacted the MPs and made these facts available to them. Thus for 48-50 hours, without sleeping for minute, Pramod Bhai kept on working. And his efforts did bring the lies being peddles by the Ministers of the powerful before the people. Obviously, it strengthened the Bahujan Cultural movement. The over-confidence of the Minister and her emotional claptrap did lent momentum to the Bahujan movement.
And all this became possible because of the Pramod Ranjan’s firm determination, fearlessness, consistency and his complete devotion to the Bahujan movement. He had an easy option – that of keeping mum, especially since his well-wishers were asking him to and because a court case on the same issue pending against him. But choosing this option would have damaged him less and the Phule-Ambedkar campaign more. Pramod Bhai, your friends should be proud of your friendship.