Chaurasi Ki Ma
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