Mahasweta Devi, the noted author and social activist, has resigned from the post of the chairperson of Bangla Akademi, as she felt slighted over the issue of nominating the name of the recipients for Vidyasagar award. Every year the state government honour one person with the Vidyasagar award for exemplary contribution to Bengal prose literature. According to Mahasweta Devi, the Bangla Akademi proposed two names for this year’s Vidyasagar award. But to her dismay the government announced only one name for the award and no explanation were given.
“In my entire career as a literary person I have never been humiliated in this manner before,” says Mahasweta Devi. This year’s Vidyasagar award will be awarded to Shibaji Bandopadhyay, a noted literary critic and a former professor of comparative literature in Jadavpur University.
But after talking to some other members of the Bangla Akademi, it was learnt that contrary to Mahasweta Devi’s claim, there was no unanimity in nominating the second name for the award. While there was no opposition to the name of Shibaji Bandopadhyay, a number of members in the Akademi recorded their opposition to the name of the second candidate. According to sources close to Akademi, Mahasweta Devi herself proposed the name of Shankar Chakraborty, whose claim to literary fame is two publications of which one was his doctoral thesis. Incidentally, Kunal Chattopadhyaya, his guide and present head of department of comparative litearature in Jadavpur University, was also a member of the same committee which decided the name of Vidyasagar Award recipient. But, Kunal Chattopadhyay and another Manabendra Bandopadhyay did not endorse Shankar Chakraborty’s candidature. Rather, some of the members recorded their opposition in the minutes of the meeting.
Mahasweta Devi has been a major source of inspiration for the Trinamool Congress and she has been considered to be the conscience of the party as described by Mamata Banerjee. However, of late, she has caused a lot of embarrassment for the government by criticizing it for its “undemocratic” attitude.