Mahasweta Devi: Bhasha’s life time mentor remembered at the Adivasi Academy Tejgadh – Gujarat

An indefatigable crusader for tribal rights, eminent litterateur Mahasweta Devi was keen to be laid to rest at Tejgadh, a tribal village in Gujarat and also the site of the Adivasi Academy, says noted literary critic, linguist and tribal rights activist Ganesh Devy who wishes to bring some of her ashes to the academy that is dedicated to the writer. […]

The Adivasi Academy, located in Tejgadh, 90 km east of Vadodara, is the signature project of Bhasha Research and Publication Centre. The Bhasha Centre was established in 1996 as a public trust for conservation and study of adivasi languages and culture.

Devy, a Padma Shri recipient and one of the founders of Bhasha, was associated with Mahasweta Devi for 12 years from 1998 to 2010. He last met the author in March this year in Kolkata.

“She used to visit Baroda (now Vadodara) 10 days every month and we travelled together in this country a distance of three lakh km. We built up a movement, the Denotified and Nomadic Tribes Rights Action Group (DNT-RAG),” reminisced Devy, who was earlier based out of Vadodara.

In 1978, Mahasweta championed the cause of two tribal groups in West Bengal — the Lodhas of the erstwhile Midnapur district and the Kheria Sabars of Purulia — who were among those notified by the British in 1871 as “criminals”.
Though these tribes were denotified after independence, the stigma remained and they faced trouble whenever crimes were committed in their vicinity. […]

“One day both of us went to that place (Chharanagar) and set up a small library and after that the local boys and girls took it upon themselves to create a theatre (the Budhan Theatre). She inspired that,” said Devy. […]

“It was not difficult for her to snub somebody off if that person was becoming hyprocritical or snobbish. She had a very great compassion for people who suffer,” remembered Devy, adding her legacy needs to be kept alive by continuing the fight for tribal justice.

“Mahasweta was Mahasweta. There’s nobody close to be compared with her,” added Devy.

Source: Mahaweta was keen to be cremated at Gujarat tribal village: Activist Ganesh Devy, Times of India, 29 July 2016
Date Visited: Sat Aug 20 2016 20:15:54 GMT+0200 (CEST)

“The tribal world and the tribal way is complete in itself.” – Mahasweta Devi

Quoted by Gopalkrishna Gandhi in “Swearing by Mahasweta” (The Hindu, 6 August 2016)

The rights of tribal people, the lives of ordinary workers and the depiction of female desire were amongst the themes explored by the writer Mahasweta Devi. Born in Dhaka in 1926, she attended the school established by Rabindranath Tagore and before her death in 2016 she had published over 100 novels and 20 collections of short stories. Sindhubala is one such story, which traces the tale of a woman made to become a healer of children and for New Generation Thinker Preti Taneja, Mahasweta’s writing offers a way of using language to explore ideas about power, freedom and feminism.

Source: “Books to Make Space For on the Bookshelf: Sindhubala” by Preti Taneja (BBC Arts & Ideas 17 March 2021)
Date visited: 23 March 2021

The passing away of Smt Mahasweta Devi ji, Bhasha’s Trustee and its life time mentor, is a huge loss for all of us. Subsequent to the Verrier Elwin Memorial Lecture to deliver which she first visited Bhasha, Baroda and Tejgadh became her second home. She had developed deep faith in the work of the Adivasi Academy and during her conversations had expressed the desire that after her demise she be laid to rest at the campus of the Adivasi Academy. In keeping with her wishes, Prof. Devy has been in touch with her family and I am glad to say that they have agreed to give over her asthi for being placed at the Adivasi Academy. Prof. Devy is visiting Kolkata on 19th August in this regard and will return to Baroda late on August 20. […]

Source: Message received via Sonal Baxi, Head of Bhasha’s publication unit, (20 August 2016 )

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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