A Single Bill Can't Eradicate Corruption: Mahasweta Devi

Kolkata, Nov 10 (IANS): As the debate rages over a strong anti-graft law, Magsaysay award winner, writer and renowned social activist Mahasweta Devi feels that a single bill cannot rid India of corruption until there is an awakening among the masses.

"I have not thought about this bill (Lokpal). No bill can solve the corruption in our country till people rise up to it. People have to rise, resist and oppose graft. Until and unless that can be done, no bill can be effective," Mahasweta Devi told IANS in an interview.

Activist Anna Hazare's hunger strike in August had forced the union government to agree to discuss a strong version of the Jan Lokpal bill drafted by activists in the standing committee of parliament.

The government says a strong bill will be passed in the winter session.

Asked about her views on Hazare and his fast, the Jnanpith awardee replied: "I don't know a lot about Anna Hazare. I am neither opposing nor supporting him. If it comes to going on hunger strike, then Irom Sharmila of Manipur is on fast for the last 11 years. Her struggle and fast is also very important. It is the fight of a lone woman against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)."

Irom Sharmila, popularly known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur", has been fasting for the last 11 years for the repeal of the AFSPA in the state.

Mahasweta Devi, an alumna of Santiniketan - the educational abode built by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore - had firmly backed West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during her protests against the erstwhile Left Front government.

However, the octogenarian writer feels Banerjee should look into allegations of rampant corruption among her party cadres.

"Definitely this (corruption) is not the change we wanted," she said referring to Banerjee's catchphrase during the assembly elections - "parivartan" or change.

Banerjee's road to power became smoother after Left-minded intellectuals like Mahasweta Devi and others denounced the 34-year-old Communist rule over the issue of land acquisitions in Singur and Nandigram and vented their anger against the joint forces operation in Maoist-hit districts.

Mahasweta Devi, who has consistently opposed the joint forces operation in Junglemahal - forested areas of three western districts West Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia - feels the security personnel are only harassing the tribals.

"Joint forces should be withdrawn from Junglemahal. What has happened there to justify joint forces? I know the tribals very well. You just need to provide basic amenities to them. Only that can solve the problem," said the writer of "Hajar Churashir Ma", which dealt with the Maoist movement in the state.

She had earlier demanded that Chief Minister Banerjee fulfil her pre-poll promise of withdrawing the joint forces.

"If you provide them (tribals) with proper drinking water and proper rationing system, everything will be fine. Tribals are the most deprived lot," said Mahasweta Devi, whose works such as "Agnigarbha" and "Bish-Ekush" are based on the Maoist tribal unrest of the 1970s.

However, lauding Banerjee as the "best" chief minister in recent years, the writer, known to be an ardent Maoist sympathizer, reiterated that only discussions between the guerrillas and the government can bring about a solution and the process of deliberations should not stop.

Her eyes light up the moment she speaks about her work among the tribes living in remote areas of West Bengal. Apart from writing on tribal issues, she has for years visited the forest areas to improve the lot of oppressed communities, especially the Lodha tribes of Midnapore and Kheria Sabar tribes of Purulia district.

Her work in denotifying the Lodha and Sabar tribes as criminal has been critically acclaimed across India.

The writer says she is not attracted by awards.

"I have never craved for any award. I never even gave a thought to getting the Magsaysay. I have featured in the Booker long-list. But whether I get the Booker or not, that does not matter. Only the award money helps in funding the causes which are close to my heart," she said.


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