Overview for Dust on the Road: The Activist Writings of Mahasweta Devi
Mahasweta Devi is one of India's foremost writers. Her trenchant, powerful, satiric fiction has won her recognition in the form of the Sahitya Akademi 1979, Jnanpith 1996 and Ramon Magsaysay 1996 awards, amongst several other literary honours. She was also awarded the Padmasree in 1986, for her activist work amongst dispossessed tribal communities. In the late 70s, Mahasweta Devi turned her attention to the marginalized tribals and untouchable poor of eastern India, particularly Bihar and West Bengal. She travelled widely, living with and building an intimate connection with them; and she began to contribute articles to several leading newspapers and journals, drawing on firsthand experience. In 1980 she started editing a Bengali quarterly, Bortika, which she turned into a forum where poor peasants, agricultural labourers, tribals, factory workers, rickshaw pullers and all those who have no voice elsewhere, could write about their lives and problems. This volume is a collection of her activist prose written between 1981 and 1992, including most of her articles in English from journals and newspapers like Economic and Political Weekly, Business Standard, Sunday and Frontier, several Bengali pieces in translation, and editorials from Bortika. The selection has been careful to include all her important writings on the issues which have preoccupied her over the years: short-sighted rural development projects, the degradation of tribal life and the environment, land alienation, and the exploitation and struggles of the landless and small peasants, sharecroppers, bonded labour, contract labour, and miners. She bears stern testimony to the harsh reality of their lives.
Maitreya Ghatak (Editor)
Maitreya Ghatak, who has edited and introduced this collection, is a social researcher with considerable field experience, who has been closely associated with Mahasweta Deviâ€™s activism over the years.