Mahasweta Devi passes away
Esha Aurora, Mohammad Abu Bakar Siddique


Eminent litterateur and social activist Mahasweta Devi has passed away on Thursday afternoon at a private hospital in Kolkata.

The 90-year-old Magsaysay awardee passed away at around 3:16pm Indian time at Belle Vue Nursing Home, her relative confirmed to the Dhaka Tribune.

Her first cousin Aroma Dutta said Devi passed away from multiple organ failure. 

She had been put on a life support after she was shifted to hospital as her physical condition deteriorated

She was 90. Her death was preceded by two-years by her only son, famous poet of revolutionary fervour, Nabarun Bhattacharya. Nabarun was her only child with famous playwright Bijon Bhattacharya.

Mahasweta Devi was born January 14, 1926, at her maternal uncle's house which was located at which is currently called Sutrapur in the capital Dhaka. 

The literary scene in both India and Bangladesh is engulfed with profound shock; a tweet by Chief Minister of Indian state of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee said: "India has lost a great writer. Bengal has lost a glorious mother. I have lost a personal guide. Mahasweta Di rest in peace."

Meanwhile, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi tweeted mourning her death: “Mahashweta Devi wonderfully illustrated the might of the pen. A voice of compassion, equality & justice, she leaves us deeply saddened. RIP.”

Indian celebrities also tweeted condolences, Rahul Bose saying: “Tremendous loss. Meeting her you were struck by her principles and courage. And what writing.”

Born to literary parents, a well-known poet and novelist of the Kallol movement,   Manish Ghatak, a writer and social worker, Mahasweta Devi was attended school in Dhaka, however, moved to West Bengal after the partition in 1947. 

According to Aroma Dutta, she bore the agony of migration all her life. In her heart, she had deep love for Bangladesh, as it was her own.

She would always call herself a refugee, which is why she passionately involved her in attending to the plight of people who took shelter in India during the liberation war, Aroma said.

Aroma remembers, I meet Khukudi [Mahesweta's nick name] three months ago. Despite being fragile and of ill health she repeated talked about Bangladesh.

Having graduated in English from Vishvabharati University in Santiniketan, she became a teacher, later journalist, finally became a creative writer before being a social worker.

She visited Bangladesh in late 1996 along with Jyoti Basu, the then CM of West Bengal, on the occasion of signing an agreement between India and Bangladesh on Ganges water sharing, and visited her ancestral home in Pabna, remembers Aroma.

She wrote more than a score of widely acclaimed books included in the Bengali literature canon that includes Hajar Churashir Maa,  Jhansir Rani, Aranyer Adhikar, Agnigarbha. Chotti Munda evam Tar Tir,

Dhowli (short story), Rudali amongst others. Several of her renowned works were adopted for films like Sunghursh, Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa, Maati Maay etc.

The path of this leading Benagali literary figure and activist was marked by over a dozen of remarkable achievements; she was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award in 1979 for her novel, Aranyer Adhikar, Padma Shri in 1986, Jnanpith Award – the highest literary award from the Bharatiya Jnanpith

In 1996, and  Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature, and the Creative Communication Arts in 1997,  Padma Vibhushan – the second highest civilian award from the government of India – in  2010.

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