16 June, 2021

Mahasweta Devi

Compensation for a Shabar tribals killing is sweet victory for the Magsaysay winner

Mahasweta Devi
Why have you made Budhan's killing a test case?
The Purulia police first tortured him on a flimsy excuse, then killed him. We filed the case in February '98; the Calcutta High court has ordered a Rs 100,000 compensation to be paid to Budhan's wife. It's a landmark judgement since Shabars are a denotified tribe treated as habitual criminals.

What has been the impact in tribal Bengal?
Massive, even the non-tribal poor are happy.

When are you going to write about this in detail?
Not in '98. On August 31 this year, there'll be a first-ever conference of denotified tribes in India. There is more interest in other states than in West Bengal about such matters.

Why are denotified tribes, often treated as criminals by the British, still harassed in Independent India ?
I urged home minister L.K. Advani to repeal the 1959 Habitual Offender act relating to tribals. He agreed to do something.

Does such activism interfere with your writing?
On the contrary, if at all there's any purpose in my living, it...

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