|“I have always believed that the real history is made by ordinary people. I constantly come across the reappearance, in various forms, of folklore, ballads, myths and legends, carried by ordinary people across generations. … The reason and inspiration for my writing are those people who are exploited and used, and yet do not accept defeat. For me, the endless source of ingredients for writing is in these amazingly noble, suffering human beings. Why should I look for my raw material elsewhere, once I have started knowing them? Sometimes it seems to me that my writing is really their doing.”|
said Mahasweta Devi regarding her own writings. This is really the essence of all her writings. Starting from the ‘Story of Etoa Munda’ written for children to ‘AranyerAdhikar’, ‘HajarChurasir Ma’, ‘Bashal Tudu’, ‘Droupadi’, ‘Rudali’ and many other works of fiction, all the characters of Mahasweta Devi’s novels and short stories are oppressed people, mostly oppressed tribals of the Chhotanagpur plateau, who fight relentlessly to end this oppression by privileged ruling classes and by the state. Her characters never succumb to the existing oppressive social structure and for this reason, her writings never make the readers pessimistic and cynical, rather they rouse their anger against the existing social order, against class, caste, gender oppression and inspire them to fight for changing that order.
Very naturally, she did not keep herself silent regarding the most glorious people’s movement of the twentieth century, the Naxalbari peasant uprising and the armed peasant movements led by the communist revolutionaries in its aftermath. ‘HajarChurashir Ma’, ‘Droupadi’ etc. are examples of excellent writings, narrating the time of Spring Thunder over India.
This eminent people’s writer took her last breath on 28th July, 2016. At the time of her death, she was ninety. Though it is a natural death due to old age, yet it is a great loss to her readers, to the revolutionary intelligentsia, to the tribal people, to the oppressed toiling masses of India.
Mahashweta Devi was born into a communist family. Her father was the great poet and writer Manish Ghatak, who was attached with the Tebhaga movement. The famous writer, dramatician, filmmaker and member of the undivided communist party, Ritwik Ghatak, was her uncle. Brought up in such a communist cultural atmosphere, Mahashweta Devi, throughout her whole life was with the struggling people of India. Both the content and form of her writings are from the masses and to the masses. Moreover, she was among those few intellectuals who honestly practised in their lives what they have written in their books. She formed many organisations of the tribal people — particularly among Lodha Shabor and Kheriya Shabor communities. She fought to de-stigmatise the Shabors as criminal tribe, which was being continued from the time of the British rule. She founded and ran a magazine named Vartika, where the writings of the rural oppressed people were published and which also published very important and rare documents on the Tebhaga movement.
She used to stand in solidarity with the struggling people, be it Kanoria workers’ struggle, Narmada Bachao Movement or the recent peasant movements of Singur and Nandigram when the Left Front Government tried to snatch peasants’ land on behalf of big corporates. She also strongly opposed the planning of so-called urbanization of Shantiniketan by the then Loksabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and built up a protest movement to save the environment and ecology of the surroundings of Viswabharati from where she had graduated. When the Trinamool government of West Bengal killed Com. Kishenji, she criticized the government and termed it as a fascist government.
In spite of all these, her relations with the Trinamool supremo Mamata Banerjee and positions taken by her in her last few years regarding some of the actions of the Mamata government are not beyond criticism. However whole life, her works are very much greater than this.
The West Bengal State Committee of CPI (ML) New Democracy deeply mourns her demise.
July 29, 2016