The Students’ Federation of India’s West Bengal State Committee observed the 50th year of the mouthpiece of the organisation ‘ChhatraSangram’ (Student’s Struggle). The event was marked by the Anil Biswas Memorial Lecture, which was delivered by eminent professor and leftist intellectual, Prof. PrabhatPattnaik. The proceedings took place at the Moulali Youth Centre, Kolkata. The event was chaired by SFI West Bengal State Committee President MadhujaSen Roy. The others to deliver addresses to the audience were, SFI All India General Secretary RitabrataBanerjee; SFI West Bengal State Committee Secretary – Debajyoti Das and Editor of ‘ChhatraSangram’Sougata Panda.
The proceedings of the day began with the comrades paying resects to Late Comrade AnilBiswas, the first editor of ‘ChhatraSangram’ and martyr Comrade Sudipta Gupta, who was a part of the present editorial board of‘ChhatraSangram’, followed by the entire audience observing silence in memory of all the martyrs of the democratic students’ movement over the years.
In MadhujaSen Roy’s address to the audience she mentioned that this journey of 50 years has not been easy and has been wrought with obstacles, not only in the past but even in today’s political scenario of the State. Another rising challenge to a publication like ‘ChhatraSangram’ is the ‘age of the internet’ which, in turn has resulted in the decrease in a habit of reading amongst the younger generations. ‘ChhatraSangram’ also has to continually combat with the commercial media and percolate the stand of the SFI amongst students all over the state. She ended with an anecdote of how, in a very politically disturbed region of West Bengal, SFI activists deliver ‘ChhatraSangram’hidden in different newspapers to students in the region even in the face of violence and blood-shed.
MadhujaSen Roy’s address was followed by a short address by Sougata Panda. He also stressed on the fact that, the journey of the past 50 years has not been a cake-walk. But he said, as members of SFI all those present should be proud and they were the ones to thank for ‘ChhatraSangram’ being able to complete this journey. Thejourney does not end here but that, the responsibility to uphold this rich legacy of the past 50 years must be taken up and be seen through for the next 50 years or more. He mentions an instance he read in one of Comrade AnilBiswas’articles that, when ‘ChhatraSangram’ was in dire straits financially, women comrades gave up their jewellery to collect funds for the magazine. The incident was meant to highlight the fact that, SFI activists were so inherently involved with the survival of their magazine. He hopes that, ‘ChhatraSangram’ through the written word shall continue to bind us all together and continue to motivate us in our struggles. He ended by thanking everyone who is or has been a part of the magazine and urged for their continued support.
Then, Prof. PrabhatPattanaik was felicitated by SFI activist Gitosri Sarkar, Ritabrata Banerjee was felicitated by Debajyoti Das. Sanath Choudhury, owner of ‘Neo Prints’, the printers who have been printing all the issues of ‘ChhatraSangram’ over the years, was also present to grace the occasion. He was felicitated by Sougata Panda. The felicitations were followed by DebajyotiDas’ address to the audience. In his address, he points out the two extremes of the Indian society presently and how even in their presence, government reports suggest that, India is progressing. He believes that, to call out the Government on its attempts to push all important existing issues under the carpet, there must be the presence of ‘visionary’ platforms like the ‘ChhatraSangram’. He mentioned that even though in this journey of 50 years, the baton had been passed many times over and the faces leading the movements may have changed but, the movement remains and sacrifices like Comrade Sudipta's continue to strengthen our struggles.
Ritabrata Banerjee in his address pointed out various attacks that, the one-year old Modi Givernment was bringing about on various state machineries and particularly on Education in the country. He mentioned about the ‘New Education Policy’ which, the Central Government is presently working on and how it calls for a ‘meaningful partnership with the private sector’. The policy documents also define ‘Stakeholders’ as ‘State schools, higher education institutions and Vice-Chancellors of Universities’, leaving out the most important components of the education system i.e. the students and the teachers. Banerjee also went onto inform the audience that, there is the existence of a list of experts who are to advise on different subjects and this list consists largely of people close to the RSS. He went onto cite the examples of the protests initiated by the students of FTII in Pune on appointment of Gajendra Chouhan as the chairperson of the institute and also the protests which, ensued following the ban on the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in IIT- Madras. He said that, it was the duty of the SFI to initiate strong, unified students’ movements against these attacks.
After his address, Ritabrata Banerjee inaugurated this years first issue of the ‘ChhatraSangram’. A special book has been published by the SFI West Bengal State Committee consisting of a collection of 50 articles from issues of ‘ChhatraSangram’ over the last 50 years. This book was released by Prof. Prabhat Pattanaik. The 5th edition of the bi-monthly bulletin ‘Su-Dipto’ was also inaugurated by Sanath Chowdhury. This was followed by the announcement of the prize-winners of the state-wide essay competition that was organised on the occasion of 50 years of ‘ChhatraSangram’.
Finally, Prof. PrabhatPattanaik delivered the Anil Biswas Memorial Lecture. He had been asked to speak on ‘Democracy and Education in Swachh Bharat’. Prof. Pattanaik explained why within only one year of its term in office, the Modi Government has ensued widespread attacks on various National Cultural and Education forums and also on the Education Policy of the country. He believes this to be a step in the ‘complete destruction of thought’ which again is laying the ground-work for the rise of fascism. He also went onto elucidate the connection between corporate capitalism and communal fascism, in other words, simplified and explained the Hindutva ideology. He ended his address with mentioning that, organisations like the SFI must obviously offer resistance to the attacks on culture and education but, also their duty lies in the process of preserving thought because the fascist forces are out to destroy it.
Prof. Pattanaik’s address was well-received by everyone. The proceedings for the day also saw the presence of former members of the SFI and even previous members of the editorial board of the ‘ChhatraSangram’ and a huge number of young enthusiastic student activists.