Writer Mahasweta Devi on Wednesday resigned as chairperson of an autonomous body for promoting Bengali literature, supposedly in protest against the manner of selecting the Vidyasagar award recipient.
The body, known as the Bangla Academy, falls under the information and cultural affairs (I&CA) department, which is handled by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
The award is named after 19th-century social reformer Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, who also wrote delectable Bengali prose.
Sources said the award committee, set up by Mahasweta Devi herself after becoming chairperson, proposed the names of Shibaji Bandopa-dhyay and Shankar Prasad Chakraborty for 2010.
The academy sent both the names to the I&CA department for approval.
A high-powered committee, set up for selecting the winner from proposals sent by various academies and comprising intellectuals and government officials, chose Bandopadhyay.
However, it remains unclear whether the committee consulted Mahasweta Devi before selecting Bandopadhyay.
Mahasweta Devi described the incident as “the biggest humiliation in her career”.
The Raman Magsaysay and Gyanpith award winner faxed her resignation to the chief minister’s office at around 5pm on Wednesday.
The development came in the context of a reported rift between the 86-year-old litterateur and Banerjee, for whom Mahasweta Devi vigorously campaigned before the 2011 assembly elections.
Theatre personality Saonli Mitra, who is also vice-president of the Bangla Academy, said: “I think there must have been some misunderstanding. I hope she will reconsider the decision.”