Thursday, March 25, 2010

'I don't know what the Maoists want but I can mediate'

Much of Mahasweta Devi 's writings are inspired by the tribals of Bengal and Bihar. Her work offers valuable documentation of these marginalized communities. The 84-year-old writer, who has won many awards, including the Magsaysay and the Jnanpith, is well-known for her strong opposition to the government's anti-Maoist operations. She tells Jayanta Gupta that she doesn't know the Maoists, but that as a writer with a social conscience, she is willing to mediate on the people's behalf. 

What went wrong in rural Bengal in order for outfits like the Maoists to gain a foothold? 
After what happened in the 70s, we welcomed the Left Front government in 1977. We expected them to deliver but they have not even done the bare minimum for the people. Even after so many years, a major part of rural Bengal does not have access to electricity or good roads. It only got worse and Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee was the last straw. Projects like the ICDS and Right to Food were complete failures.

Add to this the state-sponsored violence. There can be nothing more cruel that what took place in Nandigram. The victims told me how men who used to call them didi (elder sister), boudi (elder sister-in-law) and masi (aunt) took liberties at the behest of a certain political party. The police refused to register FIRs, leave alone arrest the criminals.

In West Midnapore, it was not only the tribals who were victims of torture. Everybody who is below the poverty line (BPL) has suffered — including Muslims and backward classes. The government handed over land in Salboni to the Jindal Group and received crores. How much of this was utilized for local development? There is a big scam in West Bengal regarding the distribution of ration cards. BPL families receive “above poverty line” cards while affluent ones hold BPL ones. After all this, does the government expect people to support them?

Full interview here Times of India 

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