We must protest brutalisation of women: Mahasweta Devi

Last Updated: Thu, Jan 24, 2013 10:30 hrs

Jaipur, Jan 24 (IANS) Eminent writer and human rights activist Mahasweta Devi Thursday rallied for the cause of women's safety and dignity in the light of the Delhi gang-rape and said it was the duty of every citizen to protest if a woman was brutalised.

"Even if a Dalit woman gets raped, violated or brutalised, we should all raise our voice in protest," the Ramon Magsaysay Award winning writer from Kolkata said at the DSC Jaipur Literature Festival here.

The writer, 88, known worldwide for her progressive novels and short stories on the rights of the marginalised and empowerment of women, said: "Nowhere would you find women of such powers as in Mahabharata like Kunti and Gandhari."

In a conversation with her publisher Naveen Kishore, the author said: "I have my sympathy for Draupadi as well."

"Go out and meet people, you will find many such characters."

She was explaining the modern relevance of five women characters from Mahabharata she had reinterpreted in her book "After Kurukshetra", an anthology of three stories told from the perspective of women after the battle of Kurukshetra.

The writer is known for contemporary literary classics like "Hajar Churasir Ma", "Breast Stories", "Draupadi", "Agnigarbha" and "Of Women, Outcastes, Peasants and Rebels".

Addressing a discussion, "Of Women, Outcasts, Peseants and Rebels", Mahasweta Devi said in her life she had undergone years of poverty and deprivation. "Life is like a flowing river and you cannot always expect that this river will flow smoothly. But one has to ensure that one doesn't go through social oppression," the writer said.

Her personal life that began as a student of English in Shantiniketan is one of freedom of choices and empowerment. The writer said she had tried to make her second marriage work, but it did not.

"I got separated but not because it would benefit me as a writer," she said. The writer divorced her first husband Bijon Bhattacharya in 1962 and later married Asit Gupta. But it too fell apart.

Speaking for a woman's right to choose, Mahasweta Devi said she felt in her own life she "was not getting something - love, attention and physical satisfaction". The emptiness within compelled her to leave her second husband.

The writer said for many years she was haunted by the fact that she was physically attractive - a fact that made her more determined to make her marriage work.

"All of us believed that revolution waited behind the lamp-post. We had to go and get it."

Earlier, delivering her keynote address in the morning, the writer said from the age 13-18 years she had been deeply in love with a cousin. "There were suicidal tendencies in his family and he had committed suicide. Everyone started blaming me but by that time, I was in close contact with the Communist Party," Mahasweta Devi recalled.

"At my age the desire to live again is a mischievous one like catching a butterfly in my 90th year. At 88 or at 87, I move forward often stepping back into the shadows. I am haunted by the ghosts of the characters from my stories, sometime I feel like an old house," she said about her writing.

The writer, who has worked for the ethnic communities all her life, said she has been influenced by the changing India in her literature though she has written more in the context of Bengal. "India is my country," she said.

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