Anirban Biswas


In the late sixties of the last century a book-selling concern started its business in Kolkata. The concern was unique in the sense that it dealt in rare books, books unavailable elsewhere could be found there. The founder, Indranath Majumadar, was a person with little formal education but his enterprise drew a large number of scholars, teachers and students to him, and they came to beleaguer him with orders. Then he, along with this business, started publishing quality books.


One such book was Truth Unites( Edited by Asok Mitra): Essays in Tributes to Samar Sen. His other publications include, Sumanta Banerjee’s In the Wake of Naxalbari, Ranjan Gupta’s Rahrer Samaj, Arthanity O Gana Bidroha( Society, Economy and Popular Uprisings of the Rahr Region), Unish Satake Bangalir Bigwan Sadhana( Cultivation of Science by Bengalis in the Nineteenth Century), Gram Banglar Itikatha( A Bengali Translation, made by Ashim Chatterjee, of W.W.Hunter’s Annals of Rural Bengal), Gautam Bhadra’s Mughal Juge Krishi Arthanity O Krishak Bidroha(The Agrarian Economy and Peasant Rebellions in the Mughal Period)  and many others.


The founder of Subarnarekha, who passed away on 9 May this year, was an activist of the undivided Communist Party of India when he was very young. Then he gave up active politics. In the late fifties, Atulya Ghosh, the veteran Congress leader set up a hostel for the needy and meritorious students of the mofussil of West Bengal. Indranath Majumdar was appointed superintendent of the hostel. Many of the boarders later on acquired eminence in their respective fields. Two leaders of the famous peasant struggle of Gopiballavpur, namely Santosh Rana and Ashim Chatterjee, were also boarders of this hostel during their student days. Atulya Ghosh, however, found it difficult to bear the expenses of  the hostel in 1967 after the fall of the Congress Government in West Bengal and finally the entire business was wound up. What is noteworthy is that even though a former communist activist, Indranath Majumdar was his choice as the superintendent. The reason was Majumdar’s personal integrity, which impressed Ghosh.


When the hostel ceased to exist, its residents were forced to go elsewhere and Indranath Majumdar lost his job and then started the business of book selling for earning his livelihood. His bookshop was housed at 93, Mahatma Gandhi Road. That was also the address of the famous Bengali cultural quarterly Ekhsan(Edited first by Nirmalya Acharya and Soumitra Chatterjee, and then by Nirmalya Acharya only). Indranath Majumdar came to be closely associated with its publication. His generous helping hand to Nirmalya Acharya when the latter was suffering from cancer, which finally led to his death, can still be remembered by those who knew. This generosity was always extended to serious scholars and students, who could have valuable books and journals from him at cheap rates. One of the beneficiaries was this writer himself.


In 1984, Indranath Majumdar set up a branch of Subarnarekha at Santiniketan, and soon it became one of the high spots of the town of Tagore. Visitors from outside, as well as students and teachers of Viswa Bharati, frequented the place. Outside visitors included scholars of renown as well as lay readers.


The number of friends of such a person was naturally not small. The names of some of them may be mentioned, e.g. Amartya Sen, Asok Rudra, Sunil Gangopadhyay, Amiya Kumar Bagchi, Asok Mitra, Somnath Hor, Nirmal Chandra and many others. All of them treated him with respect and honour. Those who visited his house at Santiniketan should not forget his hospitality. He is survived by his wife, a brother and two sons.


(Frontier Weekly v. 45, May  26-June 1, 2013)

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