Eminent writer Mahasweta Devi breathed her last on Thursday at a private hospital in Kolkata, where she had been admitted a fortnight ago with age related problems. She was 90.
Devi, who had been on ventilator, died around 3.15 PM due to multiple organ failure, said family sources.
“India has lost a great writer, Bengal has lost a glorious mother. I have lost a personal guide,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee in Delhi. Mamata is returning to Kolkata cutting short her Delhi trip.
Devi, a Sahitya Akademi and Jnanpith award winner, has also won Ramon Magsaysay award. The nation has honoured her with Padma Vibhushan, the second highest civilian award. Many of her works were made into television serials or films. The 1998 film Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa was one among them.
One of the first women writers in Bengali literature, Devi's writings were full of rebellious might. She brought to light, apparently for the first time, the cruel political atmosphere the tribals of India were living in. She spent considerable time with tribals and was outspoken time to time and took on mighty politicians including Jyoti Basu, Somnath Chatterjee, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Manmohan Singh.
Despite being a leftist in her heart and soul, Devi used to criticise the CPI(M) when it was ruling West Bengal unopposed in the eighties and nineties. She raised her voice for the tribals and was very close to the ultra left revolutionaries of India. She often played a key role in connecting various politicians to ultra left leaders for truce.
Mamata Banerjee had suggested that the Manmohan Singh government accept Devi as the interlocutor between Maoists and the government. The Centre, however, refused it.
In her later years, Devi stopped writing and concentrated on activism. She raised her voice during the Singur and Nandigram movements and came closer to Mamata. However, she objected the way in which Maoist leader Kishenji was killed. She criticised Mamata Banerjee on several occasions in the last few years. But later Mamata visited her and extended an olive branch.
In her last months, Devi became rather aloof. She lost her son, Nabarun, who was also a rebel writer, last year and she retired from public life.
She had vehemently opposed the Bharatiya Janata Party. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday tweeted, “Mahashweta Devi wonderfully illustrated the might of the pen. A voice of compassion, equality & justice, she leaves us deeply saddened. RIP.”