The convict-turned-rickshaw puller-turned writer is a socio-political activist. Known as the pioneer of Dalit literature in Bengali, he was nakedly illiterate till he was sentenced to a jail term, from where he learnt to read and write. And since then, there was looking back and today he is the author of over a dozen novels and over a 100 short-stories, apart from quite a few non-fictions.
Born in the undivided Bangladesh, his family was living in refugee camps in Bengal. But as a child, he left home to do errand jobs to eke out a living in different cities in Assam, Lucknow, Delhi and Allahabad. He was jailed, for his links with the Naxals.
He came to prominence with the publication of his influential essay Is There a Dalit Writing in Bangla? While working as a rickshaw-puller, he had a chance meeting with Mahasweta Devi, the Assamese Jnapith winner, and she asked him to write for her journal Bartika journal.
His autobiographical novel in Bengali, also available in English as Interrogating My ChandalLife: An Autobiography of a Dalit, is considered to be one of the best in Bangla for the poignant way its written and the simple language it employs. The book records the Dalit experiences of oppression in Bengal which is otherwise known as a casteless society.
In 2014 he was honoured with the Suprabha Majumdar Prize, awarded by the Paschimbanga Bangla Akademi.He also received the Sharmila Ghosh Smriti Literary Prize in 2015. The latest to join his long list of laurels the 2019 The Hindu Prize for non-fiction.