Jayasree - Netaji's Voice Since 1931


"Freedom, O Freedom! is the song of the soul" - in the same way that freedom resonates in Swami Vivekananda's song of the soul, the tumultuous goal of freedom has marked out the road for Jayasree from its inception. The journey started with the idea of all-round freedom. The endeavour was to create new life, new society and new humans.

It was the high noon of revolutionary struggle in Bengal. The revolutionary programme to free the motherland had gathered momentum in the valour of manliness, total sacrifice and service during the 1920s and 1930s. The Bengal revolutionary programme had provided a new direction to the national struggle after the 1928 Kolkata (then Calcutta) Congress - pushing back the horizon of fearless and uncompromising struggle, again and again. Jatin Das's self-immolation in Lahore jail, reckless lathi charge on Subhas Chandra Bose at the feet of the monument in Calcutta, Gandhiji's historic Dandi march and non-cooperation movement, revolutionary call in Chattagram (Chittagong) under the leadership of Masterda Surya Sen, the Writers' Building campaign of Binay-Badal-Dinesh and many more revolutionary outbursts laid down the background to the time of birth of Jayasree.

Edited by Leelabati Nag, Jayasree appeared in this stormy political climate, with the promise of relentless struggle. Nag, at that time, was not only the unquestioned leader in the movement for women's liberation in Bengal, but also had passed the test of women's leadership in the national struggle. Her revolutionary leadership became a legend when with twelve friends and co-workers she established Deepali Sangha in the early 1920s, to work for women's emancipation. A year before establishing Jayasree, she took overall charge of one of the most powerful revolutionary organisations of Bengal - Sree Sangha - when its leader Anil Roy was arrested in April 1930.

At the request of the editor, Rabindranath Tagore named the magazine and sent his blessings.

Ramananda Chattapadhyay congratulated the appearance of Jayasree in the pages of his journal Prabasi. Nandalal Bose sent his blessings by painting the cover illustration of the first issue of the magazine. Good wishes poured in from eminent people all across the society. Two of the editor's co-workers in Deepali Sangha - Renu Sen and Shakuntala Devi - took charge as co-editors of the magazine. Two revolutionaries who were underground at that time - Anil Das and Anil Ghosh - lent their support for running the magazine. Then there were all other members of Deepali Sangha and Sree Sangha for ready help.

In all her constructive work, Nag received whole-hearted support from her father, a retired deputy magistrate, Girish Chandra Nag and equally from one of her younger brothers Sushil Chandra Nag.

The question may arise as to why Jayasree? Was its publication meant only to provide the satisfaction that a magazine was being produced and edited by a woman? That it was not so is clear from the editor's words: "Jayasree has made its appearance with the aim of awakening the spirit of nationalism and fearless service to the country among women." In fact, the publication of Jayasree had become inevitable in order to transform the women's liberation movement to the greater revolutionary struggle at the national level.

With the twin goals of breaking the shackles of subjugation and ushering change in the society, Jayasree has left its mark of fearlessly expressing its opinion and clear thought, from the very first issue. At the very beginning, the magazine announced: "The purpose of this magazine is service to the country, in all forms." The first issue appealed people for self-sacrifice at the altar of the ideal through a poem dedicated 'To those who have embraced death to liberate the country,' and at the same time generated the discussion on the future outline of Indian polity through the article 'A B C D of Socialism'.

However, even before the year came to an end, the government reined in this glorious effort. In December 1931, Leela Nag was arrested, along with Renu Sen. Many more revolutionary comrades were already arrested. The government asked for a bond for Jayasree. As a result publication of the magazine became irregular. The government stopped the publication altogether in 1935. After Nag's arrest, Shakuntala Devi, Bina Roy and Usharani Roy became editors successively. Both Bina Roy and Usharani Roy were cousins of Anil Roy.

After six years of imprisonment, as soon as Leela Nag was released in October 1937, she started her efforts to publish Jayasree once again. While Jayasree was published from Dhaka during the first stint, its second act started in South Calcutta. Publication of Jayasree started again from July 1938. Rabindranath wrote to Jayasree:

Stand up ignoring all insults,
Walk unhesitatingly on the path strewn with thorns..

Blessings and good wishes came from Ramananda Chattapadhyay, Subhas Chandra, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Vijaylakshmi Pandit, Kamaladevi Chattapadhyay, Hajra Begum, Kaka Saheb Kalelkar and many more.

In the second leg of its journey, Jayasree was transformed from a women's magazine to a universal one.

Translated from editorial by Sunil Das in the Golden Jubilee issue of Jayasree