Yashwantrao Chavan Award for Mahasweta Devi

Mahasweta Devi  

Celebrated Bengali writer and activist Mahasweta Devi was conferred the Yashwantrao Chavan National Award 2010 here on Saturday “for her contribution to national integration, democratic values and the socio-economic development of India.”

Ms. Devi's niece Devashri Mukherjee accepted the award on behalf of the 85-year-old writer, who could not attend the function owing to poor health. Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, who is also president of the Yashwantrao Chavan Pratishthan, Mumbai, was the chief guest.

The citation of the award states: “She has been actively involved in the struggle of communities such as the tribals and the scheduled castes, who continue to lead a marginal existence, constantly exposed to exploitation and oppression by the ruling class. Her life and writings have become identified with the trials and tribulations of these communities. She is virtually a ‘one-person resource centre' for the poor people in times of distress or calamity. It is this direct involvement that has left an indelible mark on her writing. She writes with a pen dipped in fire and a heart full of anger and sorrow.”

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sujata Manohar, chairperson of the jury panel said the choice of Ms. Devi for the award was unanimous.

“She has become the guiding light for the downtrodden and the oppressed. She has become a voice of conscience of our society, a voice we should listen [to] and understand,” Ms. Manohar said.

Ms. Mukherjee said children in the family grew up with stories of Ms. Devi's heroism. She recounted an incident in which Ms. Devi had, when on her way to Bundelkhand as a young writer, fought dacoits on her way.

“We grew up with the spirit she embodied. We have seen her house full of Purulia and Midnapore tribals. She helped them [in their struggle] and even got them married. She has been a matriarch of the family and imparted in us hope, and what we should do for the country,” Ms. Mukherjee said. While Ms. Devi was known as a voice of the oppressed, she was also a “fun” person.

Mr. Pawar said Ms. Devi's enduring position had been that leaders could not ignore the pain and suffering of the masses.

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Printable version | Jun 21, 2021 7:08:11 PM |

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