On February 9, 2016, an event was organised in JNU in which anti-India slogans were said to have been raised for which the students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar was charged with sedition.
The Wire presents the ‘Poems Written in Saffron Ink’ series that capture the present environment of divisive politics, with threats to freedom of expression, where minorities feel unsafe and incidents of mob lynching have become common.
Sedition. JNU. 2016.
This word is against my country
on a map I cannot recognise
—iron latitudes run down the page, ceaseless
like this thought is against my country, caged
in your prison and its justice delivered
on every paper to every door
you refuse to enter, equals you refuse
to touch—let’s celebrate your purity with this feast
against my country—taste it—meat
ripped from bone, marrow from rebellion, and still
this hunger in your famine, this land
you fracture with saffron and slogans
—yesterday and today and until the law becomes
a mispronunciation, offending but always offended
by these cries against my country
to which you say I do not belong
nor does my speech, or this breath, or my gods
who watch the bodies of young men
hang, their tongues limp behind the silence
of a flag and its wheel you forced
upon the sky—let me invert the colours
so this grief might be against my country
you hide in mythologies
we never lived—watch me live
now, here, against my country, dispossessed
and lusting—this intimacy is my insurgence
—earth smeared on my forehead—call it love
against my country
the bloody skin of Bundelkhand
the salty peck of Kutch
the dissolving touch between mountains
and your Kashmir
the fading memory of an unnamed east
against my country, obliterated by its name
India, you shout, India, India!
say it slow, now, not a threat
or its lathicharge, say it like…river—Indus
cupping ancient hills—you want us to be
ancient, a civilisation before the sun, let me remind you
of ancient, of river, plains, and ruins inhabited
by a people—were they invaded by horsemen, abandoned
by monsoon, did they destroy themselves?
—centuries later, when we are buried
with saffron cities and saffron dust, will they unearth
this country, or some civilisation lost
against itself—your stifling and my dissent?
Poorna Swami is a writer and dancer based in Bangalore.