The naxalite movement derived its name from a peasant uprising that began in the village of Naxalbari in May 1967. The Naxals were deeply influenced by the tenets of Mao Zedong. During his turbulent time, Mahasweta Devi penned a novel, Hajar Chaurashir Ma (1975), based on the Naxal issue. Today-along with West Bengal, Orissa, Chhattisgarh, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra—several states are dealing with Maoist insurgencies. The ruling dispensation in West Bengal describes Mahasweta Devi as the other face of Maoism.
For several decades, Mahasweta Devi has worked for the welfare of tribal communities. She has involved herself in the development work for the Lodha, Khedia and Shabar tribes in West Bengal and Jharkhand, but she is circumspect about her alleged ‘closeness with Maoists.’ On being asked to give her opinion on the Naxal problem the country faces, she has said time and again, “Why am I only told to write on this issue? I don’t know any Maoist.” Moreover, while discussing this issue, she made it clear that she didn’t approve of the killings in Chhattisgarh’s Dantewada by Maoists and that she is completely against such violence. She called on the central government to start a dialogue with the Maoists immediately and stop Operation Green Hunt as it would not solve the Naxal problem. It would victimise the tribal people, and this she didn’t want.
Independent writers, intellectuals and NGOs from West Bengal and across the nation who sympathise with the pain and suffering of the tribal communities are being castigated, directly or indirectly. Today, it has become customary to consider Maoists activities and tribal revolts by the same standards, as if they are complementary to each other. One can clearly see the effects of the warnings on Mahasweta Devi’s exclusive writing for Delhi Press on the Maoist issue.
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