The literary journal Natun Diganta's stepping into its 16th year of publication is undoubtedly a remarkable event in our world of journals. The 61 issues, published so far included assorted contributions from scholarly essays on literary and socio-economic issues, fact-based history and perspective of the Liberation War and other edifying pieces such as short stories, poems and serialised fictions.
The quarterly literary magazine, edited by Serajul Islam Choudhury (SIC), noted author, academic and also an emeritus professor of Dhaka University, has already attracted attention of the country's progressive literacy enthusiasts and authors since its launch. Non-resident Bangladeshis (NRBs) living in the USA, Canada, Europe and India are also the subscribers of this journal.
Readers, especially those belonging to the younger generation, got a lot of new ideas and became acquainted with thought-provoking discourses from the articles and editorials appearing in different issues of the journal. It is being published by Samaj-Rupantor Adhyyan Kendra, Dhaka.
The journal gives readers the skinny on different aspects of literary world including politics, economy and society. The literary journal offers a cornucopia of knowledge-based ideas. One would like to recognise the Natun Diganta as a journal that has distinguished itself in its 16 years of publication in a country where literary magazines are mostly short-lived these days. Its unique and intriguing character has long been established in the country's literary and intellectual circles.
Apart from the editor, authors like Ahmed Rafiq, Fakrul Alam, Kamal Lohani, Azfar Hussain, Wasi Ahmed, Anu Mohammad, Haidar Akbar Khan Rono, Haidar Anwar Khan Juno, Zakiuddin Ahmed, Harishankar Jaldas, Abu Syed Khan, Syed Badrul Ahsan, Syed Abul Kalam, Ramkrishna Bhattacharya, Gauher Nayim Wara, Shamsur Rahman, Rafiq Azad, Samudra Gupta, Morshed Shafiul Hasan, Shihab Sarker, Daud Haider, Zahid Haider, Mashuk Chowdhury, Sarkar Masud, Haripada Dutta, Munir Siraj, Pias Majid and Mazharul Islam Babla have helped enrich different issues of the journal through their creative writings.
But it must be admitted that a serialised article, authored by Mr SIC published in the journal for a decade is no doubt a bold and enduring effort both from the author himself and Natun Diganta's editorial board. The article on 'Jatiotabad, Samprodaikata O Jonogoner Mukti: 1905-47' or Nationalism, Communalism and People's Freedom: 1905-47, vast in scope and incisive in analysis, was later published in the form of a book both in Dhaka and Kolkata. The piece de resistance of Natun Diganta, published as a book became a page-turner among the readers. In its more than 800 pages (of which the references alone number thirty-nine), the book treats the most turbulent years of South Asian history. The countries involved in the turmoil-India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh-are home to a billion and 700 million people now. The region, often described as "the Indian Subcontinent" or "the Indo-Pak Subcontinent" or just "the Subcontinent," witnessed epoch-making events in the first half of the twentieth century. The Subcontinent at the time was the shiniest jewel in the crown of the British Empire. The glory, however, did not extend much beyond the few years following the World War-Two.
The events leading to independence from the British, to the partition of the subcontinent, and to the fatal communal violence that followed were complex and, in some instances, chaotic. Prof SIC unravelled this convoluted history in his unique and lucid prose and impeccable research first for the readers of Natun Diganta and later for all.
"I am happy that finally the journal has crossed 15-year mark and it earned a benchmark credibility and prestige from our readers," the editor of the journal told this scribe.
Reminiscing about the arduous process of its inception during 2002, the editor said the journal is now rich in contents receiving articles on diversified issues from a cross-section of writers. "We are also happy as far as financial capacity of the journal is concerned".
He expressed his gratitude to the readers, patrons and colleagues for their unwavering support to continue the non-profit venture. "It is a venture run on the basis of our commitment to bring about real reforms in the fast eroding social fabrics and that's why profit is not our motto," the octogenarian public intellectual said.
"Samaj Rupantar Adhyayan Kendra (Centre for Social Transformation Studies), is relentlessly working towards waking the people up to a democracy which would mean equality of rights and opportunities. Rights being equal would not mean anything unless the opportunities remain equal." Mr Choudhury said.
He said the financial supports from different companies and entities to keep the journal alive are amazing and he expressed his gratitude to all of them.
Mr Choudhury earlier edited journals, the university journals of arts and letters, in Bangla and English - Dhaka Visvavidyalay Patrika for 15 years and Dhaka University Studies for nine years. He founded the Visvavidyalay Patrika. Mr Choudhury also founded a national weekly of views called Somoy and co-edited it with Azfar Hussain, Zaheda Ahmad et al, from the early to the mid-1990s. He founded the University Book Centre in 1978 and the Centre for Advanced Research in Humanities in 1986. "But Natun Diganta is something special like the icing in the cake to me as I got tremendous feedback from the readers."
The latest issue of the journal (October-December,2017, the first issue of the 16th year) carried four articles on the centenary of the October Revolution, two articles on Agartala Conspiracy and three articles on 1971. Besides, one short story and few poems are also published in the issue.
The journal should continue its journey for a long period to epitomise the quintessence of our cerebral thought. When the values and ethics of our social structure are eroding fast, we urgently need a beacon to guide us and Natun Diganta is definitely capable in this context.
It has already put a seminal influence on the shaping of the modern Bengali mind to build a happy and exploitation-free society where writers have contributed enormously to the growth and sustenance of intellectual thought in the country.