New Delhi: The Delhi Police on Thursday raided the offices of FORWARD Press, the independent city based anti-caste magazine focusing on issues concerning the Dalit and other ‘backward class’ communities and reportedly confiscated copies of its October issue on grounds that it carried objectionable material about Hindu deity Durga.
Pramod Ranjan, the Consulting Editor of FORWARD Press said, “We strongly condemn the vandalism indulged in at the Nehru Place, New Delhi office of FORWARD Press on Oct 9 by Delhi Police. He said that the Delhi police illegally detained four staffers of the magazine on Thursday and now it is confiscating copies of the magazine from stalls in Delhi without any order of any court or competent authority. He claimed that the action was being taken ‘at the instance of fundamentalist forces, which is not only a blatant violation of the Freedom of Expression granted by the Constitution but also an attempt to stifle any logical-intellectual discourse”.
It may be mentioned here that two groups of students had clashed on Thursday on JNU campus over the observance of ‘Mahishasur Martyrdom Day’. Earlier, the police had raided the office of FORWARD Press on the basis of a complaint made in the Vasant Kunj police station of East Delhi. In the complaint, it has been claimed that FORWARD Press had published objectionable material about Goddess Durga, on the basis of which students of the JNU were organising ‘Mahishasur Martyrdom Day’.
Ranjan said in this regard that “The October 2014 issue of FORWARD Press was a special number devoted to ‘Bahujan-Shraman tradition’ and carries well-researched articles of leading writers and professors of prestigious universities. The Bahujan rendition of the story of ‘Mahishasur and Durga’ has been presented in words and through sketches and paintings.
“There is absolutely nothing in the issue that can be described as objectionable under the Indian Constitution. Our objective was not to humiliate or hurt the sentiments of any community or group. We are only trying to identify and rejuvenate the symbols of Bahujan culture and civilization. Anyway, Bahujan renditions of popular texts have a long tradition, starting from Jotiba Phule and going up to Ambedkar and Periyar.”
While condemning the raid as an attack on freedom of expression the magazine issued a press release claiming, “the action has been taken at the behest of the Brahamanical forces in the BJP,” the press note said. “Forward Press – a magazine of Dalits, OBCs and Tribals – has always been an eyesore for these forces. In the last couple of years, Forward Press has faced many attacks from these forces. The attacks have only strengthened our moral force. We are hopeful that we will be able to emerge with our head held high from this latest crisis too.”
Both the Editor-in-Chief and Consulting Editor of the magazine, have reportedly gone underground since the raid.