LeftWord stands with our author Prabir Purkayastha and with Amit Chakraborty
On October 3, 2023, the Delhi Police arrested Prabir Purkayastha and Amit Chakraborty under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, a draconian law that gives the police nearly untrammelled powers to act with impunity, against the principles of natural justice. Both of them work at Newsclick, which is a media project that has been wonderful in its coverage of people’s movements. It was the coverage done by Newsclick of the struggles of workers and farmers, women and Dalits, Adivasis and others that bothered the government. Newsclick’s coverage of the violence against minorities as well as disastrous policy measures such as demonetisation, and the sudden, total lockdown during Covid’s first wave have also been exemplary. Newsclick’s reporters have put their personal wellbeing and safety aside to bring us the stories that the corporate owned media routinely mutes or obfuscates.
Prabir and Amit are not in jail because they have been part of any conspiracy as is being alleged, or because of any irregularities with money; they are in prison because they work at a site that offers a voice to the hundreds of millions of Indians who are otherwise silenced.
Prabir has been a friend and colleague at LeftWord Books since our creation in 1998. He has always been there for us, nudging us to produce more and more interesting work and providing us with the kind of advice we have needed over the years. We cherish Prabir’s role in LeftWord and look forward to the day, soon, when he will return to help us build this Marxist publishing house. During our twenty-four years in operation, Prabir has published five books with us:
- Enron Blowout: Corporate Capitalism and Theft of the Global Commons (Signpost no. 6), co-authored with Vijay Prashad (2002)
- Uncle Sam’s Nuclear Cabin, co-authored with Ninan Koshy and M.K. Bhadrakumar (2007)
- Political Journeys in Health: Essays by and for Amit Sengupta, co-edited with Indranil and Richa Chintan (2021)
- Knowledge as Commons: Towards Inclusive Science and Technology (2023)
- Keeping Up The Good Fight: From The Emergency To The Present Day (forthcoming)
Keeping Up the Good Fight starts with Prabir’s arrest during the Emergency (1975-1977) when he was a student activist at Jawaharlal Nehru University. It is a powerful book, a great window into the making of a sensitive and loving person.
After the Emergency, Prabir – now an engineer – was involved in the people’s science movement, being one of the founders of the Delhi Science Forum and the All-Indian Peoples Science Network as well as the President of the Free Software Movement of India. Committed to rationality and socialism, Prabir worked hard to build institutions to advance the cause of both. Newsclick, born in 2009, was very much part of that orientation – a news channel that would be rational and would promote the view of the people as well as articulate a vision of peace and development.
There are so many institutions built by Prabir that it is hard to list them all here. He joins our other authors – Anand Teltumbde (also booked under UAPA) and Teesta Setalvad, for instance – who the Indian government, under Narendra Modi, has at various points imprisoned under trumped up allegations. Amit Chakraborty has worked alongside Prabir for decades, assisting him in building up Newsclick, for instance. He was a constant presence in the Newsclick office, and would often bring good cheer to us when we went to talk about books on the channel.
The idea that both Prabir and Amit are involved in terrorism is ridiculous. Both of them have deep love for their fellow humans and have been involved for decades in trying to build a world that is better for everyone. To say that those who champion the rights of farmers and workers are anti-Indian is to say that farmers and workers are not Indian.
We, at LeftWord Books, stand fully with our author Prabir and our friend Amit.