Dissent

Poems in Saffron Ink: The Word Is Against My Country

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.

Protest in JNU during the sedition row. Credit: PTI

Protest in JNU during the sedition row. Credit: PTI

This is the third in the five-part ‘Poems in Saffron Ink’ series. Read the first part here and second part here.

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.

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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.

  • alok asthana

    NO. I do recognise my country. India is a good country and will remain to be good. Only, we are passing through a real bad phase. Victory of left parties in JNU elections, political dissent by Sharad Yadav, coming up of The Wire, courage of people like Gauri Lankesh and Arundhati Roy, comitment of people like Prashant Bhushan —- all these tell us that Modi is a passing phase. Goodness and truth shall prevail.

  • alok asthana

    NO. I do recognise my country. India is a good country and will remain to be good. Only, we are passing through a real bad phase. Victory of left parties in JNU elections, political dissent by Sharad Yadav, coming up of The Wire, courage of people like Gauri Lankesh and Arundhati Roy, comitment of people like Prashant Bhushan —- all these tell us that Modi is a passing phase. Goodness and truth shall prevail.