Counsel Club Archives

Varta Trust's archival research consists of a series of articles intended to create an archive of the queer movement in Bengal and India – not a chronological narrative of the movement, rather anecdotal histories capturing the little voices that are often lost in general historical accounts – voices from thousands of letters received by Counsel Club, Kolkata, one of India’s earliest queer support groups (1993-2002), from the group’s house journal Naya Pravartak(earlier called Pravartak), and from its photographic records and sundry other files and registers that captured the functioning of the group. The articles are written by social researchers and published in the Varta webzine in the column From the Archives. Articles published till July 2016 can be accessed at

Digitized copies of Pravartak can be accessed below – from its very first avatar in December 1991 (when it was first published by a group of individuals) to its new version in August 1993 (when it was revived by Counsel Club as its house journal), to its renaming as Naya Pravartak in December 1995, till its last issue published in February 2000 (as a Bengali tabloid). Digitization support courtesy Svran Apeejay Journalism Foundation, Delhi.

The journal was always ‘private circulation only’ as it was not registered and mentioned only a ‘suggested contribution’ figure to make itself self-sustaining. It was distributed mainly through word of mouth among queer networks of individuals and support groups, Counsel Club meetings, community events and other connections. A number of copies were also distributed through Classic Books in Kolkata and People Tree in Delhi. This was mid 1990s onwards for a few years. A few copies were distributed through Seagull Bookstore, Kolkata in the late 1990s till around 2000 when the last issue was published.

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‘Pravartak’ Issue #5: May-Dec 1995

Fifth issue of Pravartak as Counsel Club’s house journal – with the prefix Naya added. This addition was prompted when an article profiling the journal was published in Ananda Bazar Patrika in August 1995, and Prabartak Sangha, a long-time charitable institution, in a letter to the newspaper objected to its name being 'appropriated' for an obscene purpose. A lawyer member of Counsel Club advised the addition of the prefix to preempt any potential legal action.

40 pages

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‘Pravartak’ Issue #6: Jan-Jun 1996

In its sixth issue as Counsel Club’s house journal, Pravartak experimented with comic pages in Hindi for the first time (Jhintu Aur Shintu), though this did not last beyond two issues. The sixth issue also captured important off the pages ‘queer developments’ in Kolkata. One of these was the debut performance of Sapphire Creations Dance Workshop’s The Alien Flower, billed as “India’s first full length ballet on homosexuality” (including an ‘audacious’ French kiss between two men on stage). The second development was the inclusion of queer concerns in AIDS, Sex, Knowledge (ASK) – a popular interactive newspaper column for the youth on sexual health prepared by Thoughtshop Foundation, Kolkata and published in 1995-96 in The Statesman, then still going strong as a venerable publication.

36 pages

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