"Prabudha Bharat" was a monthly publication founded and edited by Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, the architect of the Indian Constitution and a social reformer who dedicated his life to the cause of social justice and equality. The magazine was published in English and focused on issues related to social, economic, and political reform, as well as the upliftment of marginalized communities.
The name of the magazine means "Enlightened India" in English. Dr. Ambedkar started the magazine to promote social justice and equality in India. The first issue of "Prabuddha Bharat" was published in February 1956, and the magazine continued to be published even after Dr. Ambedkar's death in December 1956 until 1960. Various attempts to restart the publication in 1992 and 1996 failed.
In the magazine, Dr. Ambedkar discussed various issues related to the Dalit community, including their social, economic, and political status, and advocated for their rights and upliftment.
Through "Prabudha Bharat," Dr. Ambedkar aimed to create awareness among the masses about the plight of marginalized communities in India and provide a platform for their voices to be heard. The magazine also published articles and essays written by other social reformers and intellectuals who shared Dr. Ambedkar's vision of a just and equal society.
Prabodhan Pol, a professor at Manipal Studies, stated, "Babasaheb launched Janta in 1930, which continued until January 1956. From 1956, he wanted to take his politics in a different direction, and therefore he changed the name of the newspaper from Janta to Prabudh Bharat.
Babasaheb's every publication came at a time when he was at a crucial juncture of his movement. For example, when Bahishkrit Bharat was launched in 1927, the Mahad Satyagraha was underway, and when Janta was launched in 1930, the Round table conference was underway, and Babasaheb had emerged as a national leader. He says that although Prabudh means "Enlightened," it also has religious connotations as it has the name of Buddha in it.
In a tragic irony, although Prabudha Bharat was the last newspaper published by Ambedkar, it was the only newspaper that was not archived. In 2016, during a demolition drive in June, the Buddha Printing press was totally destroyed.
Today, "Prabudha Bharat" continues to be published. It was revived in 2017 by a team led by Prakash Ambedkar, the president of Bharipa Bahujana Mahasangha and the grandson of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Prakash Ambedkar also serves as the editor of the publication.
The People Improvement Trust, responsible for the demolition, claimed that it was carried out at the request of the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, which had deemed the building dilapidated and a threat to human lives. However, Ambedkar's grandsons, Prakash and Anandraj, refuted this claim and lodged an FIR against IAS officer Ratnakar Gaikwad. They alleged that Gaikwad orchestrated the demolition with malicious intentions. Unfortunately, the demolition resulted in the loss of the prints of "Prabudha Bharat."
The Mooknayak spoke to Jitendra Patait, a Sub-Editor at Prabudha Bharat, the Marathi fortnightly. Jitratna graduated from Pune University in 2017 with a degree in Journalism.
The Mooknayak: Can you tell us about the revival of the newspaper?
Answer: After Babasaheb's death, Yashwant Rao Ambedkar, also known as Bhaiyasahab Ambedkar, published the newspaper until 1960. However, it could not be sustained and was shut down in 1960. There were attempts to revive it in 1992 when Prakash Ambedkar, who was a Member of Parliament at that time, resumed its publication. However, it closed down shortly after. A similar attempt was made in 1996, but it also failed. Finally, in 2017, it was restarted on April 11th, on the birth anniversary of Jyotiba Phule. Thanks to public support, it has continued until now.
The Mooknayak: You have a degree in Journalism from Pune University. You could have joined any Marathi newspaper belonging to big media houses in major cities of Maharashtra. Why did you choose Prabudha Bharat?
Answer: When Babasaheb was in America, he observed that the Black Panthers, who were fighting against racism, had their own newspaper. Today, we see that the mainstream media is entirely dependent on big businessmen and politicians. Babasaheb has been confined to being seen only as the leader of Dalits or the architect of the constitution. The system has overlooked his contributions in the field of journalism, economic thought, and other areas like the construction of the Bhakra Nangal Dam.
When we graduated from Pune University, we had the option to join the mainstream media. However, we decided to carry forward Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar's legacy. Since we had studied new media, we helped launch the digital version of the newspaper to keep up with the times, in addition to the print edition. We engaged with the audience through social media platforms like YouTube, used Babasaheb's quotes to create canvases on Instagram, and tried to reach as many people as possible.
The Mooknayak: Why do you think Prabuddha Bharat was chosen out of so many publications brought out by Babasaheb Ambedkar?
Answer: That's a good question. The choice of Babasaheb's publications reflects the different stages and struggles of his life. Each publication represented a particular ideology and reflected his ongoing battles. Let's take a look at some examples.
"Mooknayak" was based on a Marathi quatrain from Sant Tukaram, which, in English, means "I will become the voice of those who don't have a voice, and I won't remain silent." This publication represented Babasaheb's commitment to be the voice of the voiceless.
Bahishkrit Bharat" referred to the ostracized Indians, specifically the untouchables. During that time, Babasaheb intensified his fight against untouchability, challenging figures like Gandhi. "Bahishkrit Bharat" captured this vision and struggle.
In 1928, Babasaheb introduced "Samta," meaning "equality." This publication focused on the goal of achieving equality in society.
Later, Babasaheb came up with "Janta," which aimed to address the people of India. This publication reflected his evolving role and mission as a leader after India gained independence. It coincided with the birth of a new democratic India, and Babasaheb sought to make India an enlightened nation, "Prabuddha," while also emphasizing cultural assertion.
The Mooknayak: Do you plan to expand into languages other than Marathi?
Answer: Currently, we are focused on publishing in Marathi. However, on certain occasions when there are important articles or speeches by our Editor Balasaheb (Prakash Ambedkar), we provide a summary and translation in English to share within our intellectual circle.
The Mooknayak: What are your sources of revenue?
Answer: Our revenue primarily comes from donations made by people and subscription fees. The annual subscription cost is Rs 500. Additionally, Balasaheb (Prakash Ambedkar) has a strong support base in Maharashtra, and we receive financial support from them to sustain our publication. Some individuals even donate to us by cutting expenses from their wedding ceremonies, with the intention of ensuring Babasaheb's journalistic legacy continues and that our media runs parallel to the "Godi media" (referring to media biased towards specific interests) and "Manuvadi media" (media aligned with caste-based discrimination) that work against us.
The Mooknayak: How do you view the trend of people spreading Babasaheb's vision through media platforms named after his publications?
Answer: I believe it is a positive sign. No one has exclusive rights to the names of Babasaheb Bhim Rao Ambedkar's publications. People can use those names as long as they are committed to fulfilling Babasaheb's vision. It is heartening to see the dissemination of his ideas and values through various media platforms that bear the names of his publications.
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