Mahasweta Devi is one of the India's foremost writers. Her trenchant, powerful,
saitiric fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi
(1979), Jnanpith (1996) and Ramon Magsaysay (1996) awards, amongst several other
literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, for her activist
work amongst dispossessed tribal communities.
In the late 70s, Mahasweta Devi turned her attention to the marginalized tribals
and untouchable poor of eastern India, particularly Bihar and West Bengal.
She travelled widely, living with and building an intimate connection with them;
and she began to contribute articles to several leading newspapers and journals,
drawing on firsthand experience. In 1980 she started editing a Bengali
quarterly, Bortika, which she turned into a forum where poor peasants,
agricultural labourers, tribals, factory workers, richshaw pullers and all those
who have no voice elsewhere, could write about their lives and problems.
volume is a collection of her activist prose written between 1981 and 1992,
including most of her articles in English from journals and newspapers like Economic
and Political Weekly, Business Standard, Sunday and Frontier, several
Bengali pieces in translation, and editorials from Bortika. The selection
has been careful to include all her important writings on the issues which have
preoccupied her over the years: short-sighted rural development projects, the
degradation of tribal life and the environment, land alienation, and the
exploitation and struggles of the landless and small peasants, sharecroppers,
bonded labour, contract labour, and miners. She bears stern testimony to the
harsh reality of their lives.
About the Author:
MAITREYA GHATAK, who has edited and introduced this
collection, is a social researcher with considerable field experience, who has
been closely associated with Mahasweta Devi's activism over the years.
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