Kolkata, Dec 6: Fondly recalling having received the Jnanpith Award from Nelson Mandela, eminent author Mahasweta Devi Friday recalled how the South African anti-apartheid hero honoured her by saying she belonged to his country as well.
The 87-year-old novelist, who won the Jnanpith Award in 1996 for her Bengali novel “Hajar Churashir Maa”, said Mandela’s death was “important” as it would be a reminder to speak out against oppression and exploitation across the world.
“He praised my work and said, ‘You are not only India’s author but you belong to South Africa as well’. It was an honour to receive the award from him,” Mahasweta Devi told IANS.
The Jnanpith is one of the most prestigious literary awards in India.
“Hajar Churashir Maa” (Mother of 1084) was penned by Mahasweta Devi in 1974 against the backdrop of the Naxalite movement of the ’70s.
It was adapted to the big screen in 1998 in Govind Nihalani’s “Hazaar Chaurasi Ki Maa”. It went on to win the National Film Award for best feature film in Hindi.
“His death is important… the fight against oppression will be continued whenever we remember him… he was a symbol of the triumph of human rights all over the world,” said the Magsaysay winning novelist and social activist.
Mandela, who led a peaceful struggle against racial oppression of his country’s black majority by the white minority, died Thursday at his home in Houghton, a suburb of Johannesburg.
He was bedridden and had even stopped taking food in recent days, leaving his family virtually on death watch.
Mandela was discharged from hospital in early September following an 85-day stay for a recurring lung infection, the result of his longtime imprisonment during the apartheid period.
A Nobel laureate and a Bharat Ratna, India’s highest award, he served as the president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999.