Bengal was a hot place of discussing intellectual ideas in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Bengalis would gather in Coffee House in College Street and discuss about things like American attack in Vietnam and Democracy in Mozambique.
But, thousands of miles away from Calcutta, a young Bengali was writing and thinking about Pan-Africanism. His name was Rajat Neogy.
Born to Indian Bengali parents in Kampala, Uganda in 1938, Neogy did his college education in London. After returning to Uganda in 1961, he founded the Transition Magazine which became a hot topic of discussion among intellectuals in Africa. Not only from Uganda, writers from Kenya, South Africa, Malawi and Ghana used to contribute on a regular basis. Writers like Wole Soyinka, Ali Mazrui & Peter Nazareth contributed on a regular basis. It had become the intellectual platform for writers in Africa.
Neogy and his team, which consisted of Sir V S Naipaul and Paul Theroux, used to meet at bars and restaurants in Kampala city and discuss about ongoing change and politics in Africa.
Neogy believed in Pan-Africanism. He believed, that through intellectual debates, the condition of Africans and Africa can be improved, much like his Indian Bengali counterparts at the time.
Like contemporary writers and thinkers, Neogy and team did not fear about the consequences of criticizing the dictatorship in Africa.
Africa was changing. European colonialism was giving way to independence but dictators were taking their place. Milton Obote was in rule in Uganda and in 1968, Neogy criticized his policies in his magazine. As a result, he was detained for a couple of months by Obote.
Neogy left Uganda in 1969 and moved to Ghana, where he started the magazine again in 1970. After a few years in Ghana, he finally moved to USA and settled down in California.
The magazine closed in 1976 in Ghana and was revived again in 1991 in USA. Till date the Transition Magazine is widely a field of discussion of Africa related topics.
Neogy left the world in 1995, but left behind many great achievements. He was one of the few Bengalis in Uganda. One of the few Bengali to start a magazine outside of Bengal. One of the very few Indians in Uganda who were into intellectual discussions and one of the pioneers who believed and lived for a multi cultural society.