January 20, 2012
By Suvarup Saha
Protest meeting: 21 Jan (Sat) at 3 pm at East Calcutta Library Hall (beside Prachi Cinema Hall at Sealdah)
In line with the constant efforts made by the TMC government in West Bengal to encroach on the existing democratic space and curtail dissent, the Publishers and Booksellers Guild (a consortium of Kolkata based publishers which organizes the celebrated Kolkata Book Fair) has come up with a crude yet alarming diktat pertaining to the upcoming Kolkata Book Fair, 2012. This concerns “Little Magazines”, the independently published periodicals with a long and rich history of progressive contribution to society.
From budding writers, poets to veteran yet fiercely independent editors of these magazines, the book fair has been a platform for showcasing their newest works, taking them to a new readership and exchanging ideas. However, this year, the organizers had first mandated a “bond” to be signed by the editors of the participating Little Magazines, on their letterheads. A copy of the bond statement in Bengali can be found here (click to enlarge).
The bond is self-explanatory indicating that the little magazines are the trouble-makers in the book fair and so they need to vouch that they would make no ‘nuisance’ during the fair, and if such a thing actually happens, then they would have to abide by any punishment meted out to them by the security force of the Guild. As if to screen the applicants, the Guild also demanded a photograph, voter’s identity card and personal details of the editors.
This outrageous action was immediately met with strong protests from the members of the civil society. Under pressure, the Guild did withdraw the fatwa (the earlier bond) but was clever enough to put almost all of its terms in a revised application form (available in English – click to enlarge).
As soon as an editor puts her/his signature in the said form, it implies that she or he agrees to the Guild’s terms that no ‘nuisances’ or ‘protest’ can be created or raised by the little magazines in the Fair Ground and Guild’s Security Force can resort to any step against them which they deem to be fit. Alarmingly, only the little magazines are to submit to such a humiliating condition! Clearly, this is an utter violation of our Constitution granted right to protest and no private body can take the law in its own hand. This is an attempt to create a Special Economic Zone type of arena in public property and in a disgustingly unlawful manner. Further, the threat to deny table space in the fair until such submissions are made is extremely disconcerting.
This kind of gross violation of democratic principles needs to be combated with urgency. A meeting of all the Little Magazines and sympathizers has been convened by Little Magazine Somonnoy Mancha on 21 Jan (Sat) at 3 pm at East Calcutta Library Hall (beside Prachi Cinema Hall at Sealdah) to decide upon our future course of action.