Kolkata, July 29 (IANS) Activist-writer Mahasweta Devi, who crusaded for the rights of tribals and the marginalised for decades, was on Friday cremated with full state honours as commoners and eminent personalities led by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee paid their last respects.
Police personnel reversed arms and gave a gun salute with the bugle sounding the Last Post as her grandson Tathagata Bhattacharya lit the funeral pyre. Hundreds of people, including tribals from faraway districts, congregated at the Keoratola crematorium to bid a tearful adieu to the author.
In the morning, people cutting across class and political barriers paid their last respects to the 90-year-old Padma Vibhushan and Magsaysay awardee who passed away on Thursday following cardiac arrest.
Besides a host of state ministers, Left Front Chairman Biman Bose and Communist Party of India-Marxist state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra paid floral tributes to Mahasweta Devi whose mortal remains were kept at the Rabindra Sadan auditorium.
People accompanied the convoy of police cars that flanked the hearse carrying the author’s body in a glass casket bedecked with floral offerings for the last journey to the Keoratala crematorium.
The homage resembled a massive rally with artistes, writers, intellectuals and celebrities walking side by side with the common man as the cavalcade made its way to the crematorium.
Among those to paid their respects were the Lodhas of the erstwhile Midnapur district and the Kheria Sabars of Purulia — who revered Mahasweta as their mother.
Coming all the way from the districts, the members of the twin tribal groups carried copies of a letter Mahasweta had written to the various authorities highlighting the stigma attached to the tribals who were notified as “criminals” during the British rule.
“We have lost our mother. We have lost the voice that inspired us to continue our fight,” said one of the tribals who had assembled under the banner of Lodha and Sabar Kalyan Samiti.