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Why the Little Mag Square is so much neglected?

Kamrul  Ahsan

Kamrul Ahsan

Sun, 11 Feb 24

Seeing Little Mag Square, many people are now likening it to a cowshed—rows of shops. There is no place to walk. Not enough light. Not enough chairs to sit on. Next to it is the 'Lekhak Bolchhi' podium. Rampant noises are coming from there. The Little Mag Square has been trapped in an isolated space, so few readers visit it. Since the beginning of the fair, Little Mag editors and staff have been locked in an argument with the organizing authorities. Little Mag staff editors also wanted to boycott the fair. After a series of discussions, a solution was reached. However, it cannot be said that Little Square has sufficient lights.

Even before the start of the fair, Little Mag staff editors disputed fiercely over the allotted place fair organizers. Many Little Mag staff editors did not like their assigned space. This year's Little Mag Square has been set up in a tiny space on the TSC side entrance next to the main road. The place is uneven and bumpy. The main entrance to the fair is right in front. People walk in that direction, overlooking the Little Mag Square. Everyone wants to enter the leading fair. Little Mag Square is practically set up in a seemingly detached place from the leading fair. Little Mag staff editors had asked not to set up stalls or erect bamboo poles there.

They said the center should be built only after resolving the dispute with the fair authorities. But the fair authorities did not heed their request. They set up stalls anyway. The uneven places were cursorily filled with ash and sand. Stalls have also been allocated on time. The mainstream little magazines did not set up their stalls even after a few days of the fair passed. Instead, some publishers outside the mainstream have set up their shops. Many of these publishers do not even publish little mags; they publish ghost stories, books written by them, and entertainment magazines. The hodgepodge selections are such that it is entirely out of order with little magazine. Yet, no one is there to remedy it. Little Mag staff-editors protested this, too. Two days later, another glaring problem emerged with insufficient lighting arrangements. After dusk, the Little Mag square was shrouded in darkness. Little Mag staff-editors announced they would boycott the fair two days into it. They discussed the situation with the fair authorities, but authorities expressed their unwillingness to relocate the Little Mag square.

They promised to resolve the issues as much as possible within the assigned space. Some stalls were newly arranged, and some lights and chairs were provided. The Little Mag staff editors claimed it was not enough a week after the fair. Many problems still exist. The biggest problem is that readers do not visit the square. Their disputes with the fair authorities are still going on. There are many opinions for and against it.

Poet and Shaluk's editor Obayed Akash

"Shaluk" editor poet Obayed Akash said, "This year's Little Magazine Fair has been organized in an unplanned and chaotic manner than any time in the past. The stalls are so overcrowded that no one is interested in walking in and flipping through the magazines. These show the indifference of Bangla Academy. Bangla Academy has always been afraid of the youth. Every year, the demands of the little magazine materialize through protests. It has become the destiny. They are deprived if they don't move. There is no good word to say this time about the Little Magazine Square."

Poet and Magnapath's editor Ahmed Shiplu

"Magnapath" editor poet Ahmed Shiplu said the same thing. "The biggest problem of Little Magazine is that Little Magazine has no authority. We talk directly to the Academy authorities, but they do not take us seriously. We protested when the fair was organized this time, saying the place was dingy and uneven. They filled the place with ashes and sand. Besides, stalls were supposed to be allocated only for little magazines. That didn't happen either. They were allocated randomly. Many have been assigned to ghost story publishers. They sell their books there in the name of Little Mag. Sells own organization's manifesto. Even some fundamentalist organizations have stalls there. We spoke to Katubuddin Sahib, the officer in charge of Little Mag Square. He said it was not even in his hands. He didn't even know whose hand it was."

When talking to Katub Azad, deputy director of Bangla Academy convener of the book fair's little magazine area, he said, "We have not been able to make a specific place for the little magazine. This is why such problems occur every year. Last year, they asked for a place here, so they were given a place there. All their demands were met on the second day. We have also designed the banners. I will make it like a gateway in front. Benches and lighting will also be provided. I did as I was told to do. If you want to know more, talk to the member secretary in charge."

Member Secretary Administration, Director of Human Resource Development and Planning Department KM Mujahidul Islam was found extremely busy. His office was overcrowded. His private secretary did not understand the importance of the matter and said his boss would not meet. However, this reporter waited for ten minutes to meet the member secretary. Finally, when Dr. KM Mujahidul Islam stepped out for some errands, the View Bangladesh reporter got a chance to meet him. They talked while standing.

Hearing the complaints of Little Mag staff editors, Dr. KM Mujahidul Islam said, "They have personally chosen this place. We wanted to give them the same place as the last time, but they said that due to the 'Morok Unmochon' stage next to it, noises are there, and they asked for a different place. They are given a separate place. Why are there still so many complaints?"

The Views Bangladesh further quarried about the alleged unevenness of the square layout and the allocation of many stalls outside the purview of Little Magazine. Dr. KM Mujahidul Islam said, "We are taking care of them. The fair has just started. Everything will be fine by next week. At the beginning of the fair, we remained busy with the prime minister's arrival: a month-long book fair, lots of work. Everything will be fine slowly based on cooperation. There is nothing to complain about this."

Poet and Karatkal's editor Shafi Samudra

"Karatkal" editor Shafi Samudra said there were many complaints. "Bangla Academy treats Little Mag Square like an insurance company every year. We have been asking for a permanent location for the Little Mag Square for years. In this way, various problems crop up yearly in different places. Confusion ensues. We didn't know where the Little Mag Square would be even a week before the fair. The fair authorities didn't discuss the Little Mag Square layout with us. They don't know what a Little Mag square should look like. Poets and writers come here to hang out. It is the meeting place of young poets and writers. So, the place needs to be more attractive, more open."

Poet and Ek Ranga Ek Ghuri's editor Neel Sadhu

What is the result one week after so many grievances and protests? What is the overall picture of the one week of Little Mag Square? I spoke to Neel Sadhu, the editor of "Ek Ranga Ek Ghuri" about this. He said, "We put up a banner at the beginning of the fair, 'No award is neutral.' The fair authorities have removed the banner. We were against setting up such rows of stalls. They didn't listen to us. Little Mag staff-editors are angry about this. It seems that we were given a space for formality's sake. We wanted to boycott the fair. Later, we accepted it. I protested about some books, which were removed by the fair authorities. Because it has turned into a family affair, a settlement has been reached. And we have many faults, too. Since little magazines no longer have such clout, fair authorities take that opportunity. They could not have done it if we had been united, more active."

Poet and Maduli's editor Arabinda Chackraborti

"Maduli" editor poet Arabinda Chackraborti said, "Little Mag is considered the powerhouse of the youth. But does the current little mag movement hold that vibe? This is a soul-searching question. Sometimes, I ask myself, can this little mag concept be carried for life similarly? What are we fighting for after everything has been taken over by the lumpen or handed over to them? However, some still solder on. This is our relief for now. This is the condition of the Little Mag Square today because of the lack of activity of the Little Mag activists. The sad state of the Little Mag Square shows the weakness of the Little Mag movement."

Most of this country's remarkable and brilliant little magazines are now in cold storage. The saying is little magazines are born to die. Their life expectancy is very short. However, some of the little mags gave a youthful feeling. Many poets and writers of this country came from little magazines. Little Magazine is the home of writers-poets-authors. Many once wrote only in little magazines. Those days are no more. There is no anti-establishment movement. The poets-writers of the literary page of a daily newspaper and Little Magazine have become one. Even today, some young people keep the torch of light burning. They publish their dream little mag from out of pocket. Not many little magazines were published in this year's fair. Many have set up stalls with old numbers. Still, some magazines have come and are coming.

The notable little mags published or are being published on the occasion of this year's fair is - "Magnapath" edited by Ahmad Shiplu. This roughly thousand-page publication is a survey or tour of fifty years of Bengali literature. The Shankha Ghosh number of "Shaluk," edited by Obaid Akash, was published before the fair. Its size is also significant. Sarkar Ashraf edited "Nisarga" is coming. The eleventh issue of anti-war and anti-aggression, "Bunon," edited by Khaled Uddin, has been published. "Shilabrsthi," edited by Samar Chakraborty, has been published. The Abul Hasan number of "Ek Ranga Ek Ghuri," edited by Neel Sadhu, will be published very soon. Also coming up is "Karatkal" edited by Safi Samudra, "Kshyap" edited by Apu Mehdi, "Batting Zone" edited by Mahfuz Ripon," "Paatader Sansar" edited by Harun Pasha. In the next week of the fair, more little magazines, editors of little magazines, poets, and writers from different parts of Bangladesh will flock to the fair. All the complaints may be buried when the Little Magazine Square buzzes with the gathering of the writers, poets, activists, and editors of the little magazines. Only the dove of dreams will fly in the sky.

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