Acclaimed writer and social activist Mahasweta Devi passed away at the age of 90. She was a recepient of Sahitya Akademi and Jnanpith awards besides being awarded the Ramon Magsaysay award and the Padma Vibhushan.
One of our readers, Hemendra Chandalia, Prof. Deparment of English, Rajasthan Vidyapeeth had interviewed her on Nov 16, 2008. He has shared his experience with all of us below:
State has sold out mother earth and her Children
State has sold out mother earth and the tribals, her children ,to the corporates who have threatened the very existence of the planet earth.Earth is a woman,our mother.We should have the same regard for her as we have for our mother. But unfortunately in India the governments have sold out natural resources to the corporates who ,in order to maximise their profits have destroyed nature and the lives of the tribals who are the children of nature.This was the concern shared by the noted writer and activist Mahashweta Devi in a special interview in Udaipur.
She is the recipient of an honour instituted by Jeevan Rakshak Trust founded by noted educationist of Udaipur late Shri Kesri Lal Bordia.The trust awards a sum of Rs. One lakh every year to some well known educationist, man of letters or social activist. Mahashweta Devi is a well known writer and a social activist.The honour was conferred on her by veteran Gandhian Narayan Bhai Desai in a public function at Bhartiya Lok Kala Mandal,Udaipur.
Mahashweta Devi said that the present time is extremely important.The planet earth is in danger.The greed of the capitalist world specially the corporates has caused the depletion of those safeguards of nature which can only ensure the longevity of mother earth. She said that the forests were being destroyed in West Bengal and the government has recently given forest and tribal people’s land to an industrialist Jindal in Chalwani Anchal of Medinipur district. This is a punishable offence, giving the land of the tribals,giving the land of the forest is a punishable offence.
She was also critical of the Nano plant in Singur. She said that Tata was to invest Rs.2000 crores but the West Bengal government invested three thousand crores in building roads.providing free electricity and water. Only six hundred fifty people were to get employment while more than 22000 persons were displaced. That part of the state is most fertile which was being given away in the name of the industry. She referred to the movement of the people and said that there were pathetic stories of women who were raped during the movement against the industry.But nothing has been done to book the culprits. She said that the judicial inquiries constituted by the state government are farce.
When asked about her movement in the support of once notified tribes,Mahashweta Devi talked in details about her crusade against the state and the society who still consider some tribes and some castes as criminal.She said that in West Bengal Lodha and Shabar are dubbed as notified (criminal)tribes. Even other tribes consider them as criminals and the police does not need any case to apprehend and beat them. That they are Lodhas or Shabars is reason enough to be held guilty.She said that even after Government of India declaring these tribes as denotified the situation has not improved much. Mahadevi started her dialogue with describing her struggle in Purulia and Palamu against bonded labour.She said that even after the formation of a law to abolish bonded labour,it exists in one form or other.
Talking about her literature she said that whatever she saw in the life she wrote about that. The struggle and suffering of the people finds expression in her writings.She said it was for the readers to judge her work.She said that writing in newspapers and magazines affects her creative writing.Participation in struggles of the people,working in their organisations and guiding them takes a lot of her time.She invited me to visit her house saying ,”you come to the house of Didi and see that she has no time to bother about even her dresses and personal needs.The complete collection of her works is being published in Bangla. Already twenty volumes of 300-350 pages have been printed and the editor says that this work is far from completion. Mahashweta Didi showed her familiarity with Rajasthan ,remembered VijaydanDetha and recited a song in Bangla: Mewar Pahad,Mewar Pahad Jujhe chhile jotha Pratap Veer.