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Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Ma

Mahashweta Devi

In Mahashweta Devi’s landmark book on the Naxalbari uprising, Hazaar Chaurasi ki Ma, the female revolutionary comes out of prison after enduring all the despair and police torture, and she finds that nothing has changed. Nothing. So all the struggles, the sacrifices, have they all gone waste? No, Mahashweta would say, because the seeds of revolution will be born yet again, in another village courtyard or adivasi forest, with guns or arrows, eyes or hands. Because no story of struggle ever dies, it resurrects into a new narrative of hope. Like the Birsa Munda rebellion against the British in the Singhbhum forests, and a million adivasi mutinees which this great Bengali writer has painstakingly documented. Till this day she works with denotified adivasis, many of them still branded as ‘criminal tribes’. “I am not an intellectual,” she once said, describing her life with the Sabar tribe in Bengal. “Sagar Sabar is an intellectual. He understands the language of the trees.” Mahashweta Devi, like the ipta, anticipated Arundhati Roy decades ago. The synthesis of great art and revolution. It’s tragic there are few women writers like her in contemporary India.

September 11, 2004

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