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Mahasweta Devi: 90-Year-Old Legendary Writer and Social Activist Dies in Kolkata

Mahashweta Devi. Image source:
  • Mahasweta Devi is reported to have been suffering from a blood infection, kidney failure, and she had also suffered a heart attack on July 23
  • She is famous for writing about the tribal communities in states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh and their struggles and oppression
  • The Sahitya Akademi in 1979, the Padmashree Award in 1986, and the Jnanpith award in 1997 are a few of the many awards she has received

Mahasweta Devi, the eminent writer and social media activist, died at the age of 90 on Thursday, July 28, at 3:16pm in Kolkata. She is reported to have been suffering from a blood infection and kidney failure. Her health had continued to worsen from the medical problems and she had also suffered a heart attack on the July 23.

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She was undergoing treatment at the Belle Vue Clinic in Kolkata, since past two months. Doctors told media sources that she had been receiving aid for illnesses that occur commonly with ageing,  reported PTI.

Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee mourned her death and said this is the loss of a great writer for the country. Banerjee Tweeted, “India has lost a great writer. Bengal has lost a glorious mother. I have lost a personal guide. Mahashweta Di, rest in peace.”

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Mahasweta Devi was famous for researching and writing about the tribal communities in states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. Her particular focus is on the life of these communities by exploring the struggles faced by the people. She is also known to place emphasis on Dalits and women.

She started off as a teacher at the female-focussed institution, Bijoygarh College, in 1964. She also used, this time, to work as a journalist. To explore her writing, she also worked as a creative writer.

Rudali, a book by Mahasweta Devi. Image source:
Rudali, a book by Mahasweta Devi. Image source:

A social activist, she devoted a majority of her time to work with the tribal communities in the same states she wrote about. She narrates instances from such work into her fiction and mentions themes of oppression, especially by landlords and government officials towards the tribes and other marginalised communities.

For her exceptional literary work, she was awarded various awards- The Sahitya Akademi in 1979, the Padmashree Award in 1986, and the Jnanpith award in 1997 are just a few of the many. She has published over 100 novels, and at least 20 collections of short stories, all in the last 40 years.

Though most of her works are written in her native language Bengali, many of her works have also been translated into Indian and foreign languages. Two of her most famous works, Rudaali and Hajar Churashir Ma, have also been made into films that have been critically acclaimed, both in India and internationally. These achievements have had a global impact and have earned her a rightful international reputation.

Mahasweta Devi was born in 1926 in a middle-class family in Dhaka, now Bangladesh. She is a distinguished Indian-Bengali writer and had attended the renowned Shantiniketan, established by Rabindranath Tagore. She later went on to graduate from the University of Calcutta and attained an MA in English from the Visva Bharti University later.

-by Varsha Gupta of NewsGram. Find her on Twitter: @VarshaGupta94


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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

United nations
India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Kolkata Showcases in Top 100 Global Travel Destinations

Whiteways and Laidlaw Building in Kolkata. Wikimedia

Oct 2, 2017: Kolkata is featured in the top 100 travel destinations globally alongside other Indian cities namely, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi, Pune, and Bengaluru, as indicated by Mastercard Global Destination Cities Index 2017.

Chennai stands out in India, other than emerging among the top 10 destinations in Asia Pacific when it comes to overnight visitor arrivals.

Travel and tourism in India is on the rise, an authority of a main travel house in the city told PTI.

Durga Puja festival in Kolkata is a major attraction for foreigners with at least two- to three-day stay, he said.

Also Read:  Durga Puja Pandal Decoration Catches Cinema Style, Baahubali Palace Will Be In Cruise This Year In Kolkata 

According to the Mastercard Global Destinations Cities Index 2017, there are no indications of the slowdown in travel and tourism in Asia Pacific with the region dominating visitor arrivals.

This is additionally affirmed with the main 10 cities in Asia Pacific destinations tracking the most noteworthy amount of global overnight visitor spending. Bringing USD 91.16 billion in travel use in 2016, Asia Pacific outpaced Europe (USD74.74 billion USD) and North America (USD55.02 billion), MasterCard said in an announcement.

Prepared by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter @Nainamishr94