CPI daily in Bengal, ‘Kalantar’, suspends publication

Published : October 31, 2018 19:08 IST

Kalantar, the 53-year-old daily of the Communist Party of India (CPI) and the oldest communist newspaper from Bengal, was forced to suspend publication from November 1 for lack of funds. Until the party can find a way to generate funds to revamp the printing press and restart publication, it will try to keep the brand alive by attempting to bring it out as a fortnightly. 

On October 31 and November 1, announcing the “temporary” suspension of publication of the daily, the front page of the paper carried a poignant appeal in Bengali:

“In this market-driven economy, without any advertisement revenue, Kalantar has been fighting a losing battle…. At a time when the people of this State are facing lawlessness, and the people of the country are struggling to free themselves from the terrible fascist Modi government, the suspension of Kalantar’s daily publication will hurt that movement; yet with great sorrow we wish to inform that we have no other options left.”

Swapan Banerjee, State secretary of the West Bengal unit of the CPI, told Frontline: “It is a very sad occasion for us. It is the oldest of the Leftist newspapers in West Bengal; but since 2011 the State government simply stopped giving advertisements to us. [In 2011, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress came to power in West Bengal, defeating the 34-year-old Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front government of which the CPI was a key constituent.] Soon after that the Central government also stopped giving us advertisements primarily because we did not have multi-coloured machines. There were many excuses to ensure that we did not receive advertisement revenue. For the last eight years we practically managed without any advertisements, except for just a few private ads. This way our entire resources got depleted, but still we could not make ourselves shut down this daily. Now it has become difficult to pay for the general expenses of the party itself.”

To keep the legacy of the paper alive, the CPI is considering ways of bringing out Kalantar as a fortnightly. “As soon as possible we will try and bring out the paper daily once again. We need to revamp the press machinery and find new sources of ad revenue. The party may even give a call for approaching the public for funds”, said Swapan Banerjee. This was not the first time that Kalantar was closed. In 1992, the paper suspended its daily publication for around two and a half years, during which time the party revamped its printing press. It came out as a fortnightly during that period.

Kalantar has had a long and interesting journey from the time it came out as a weekly on December 29, 1962. On October 7, 1966, it began to be published as a daily newspaper. Interestingly, the masthead of the paper was designed by the legendary filmmaker Satyajit Ray. “When the decision to make Kalantar a daily was made, the founders of the paper approached Satyajit Ray for his suggestions. He had said I want to create for you something that you can always use, and he designed our masthead for us. We are still using that, and as long as Kalantar exists, that will be our masthead,” Kalyan Banerjee, editor in chief of Kalantar told Frontline. The name  he pointed out was suggested by the eminent Bengali poet Bishnu Dey, after Rabindranath Tagore’s collection of essays on politics, economics, social issues, and so on that had come out under the title Kalantar.

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