Communalism

Poems in Saffron Ink: It Must Be God’s Will That You Have Died

On September 28, 2015, 50-year-old Mohammad Akhlaq was lynched and his 22-year-old son Danish was brutally beaten for allegedly ‘storing beef’.

Not in my name protest jantar mantar

Citizens hold placards during a silent protest “Not in My Name” against the targeted lynching, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi. Credit: PTI

This is the fifth in the five-part ‘Poems in Saffron Ink’ series. Read the firstsecondthird and fourth parts.

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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Prayer. Dadri. 2015.

it is always the same, a prayer

whispered so many times

it spins

into a holy rumour

beneath their naked

feet that trace auspicious

circles around a faceless idol—each step

is a blessing before they kill you

 

it was 1992 when they said

you prayed beneath archways that stood

upon ground blessed

by another god,

so they scaled those creepers, the petals

carved into the walls, and dangled

atop the mosque like a divine

announcement—a flag thrown

to the heavens, the sky corrugated

with strands of saffron—they called

it prayer, before they killed you

 

and they have killed you

again, now, their pious feet

stampede through your threshold—you have eaten

an animal, their animal, sucked

on the bones of their god, they say

you swallowed their sacred

in a ritual of your own—you killed

their god, so they killed you

 

the hymn of sword and gunfire

rings—their god is dead, and you are dead,

and you will both remain there, decaying

like an ancient prayer, half-forgotten—

the police say that you are dead, but nothing

of the ghost-words they spoke

before they killed you—it must be

god’s will that you have died

 

in a disparate city the saffron man

sits silent, not in lament

or mourning; he is praying—he wrote

the prayer that killed you

and tomorrow he will write

your epilogue

a calf is born, adorned in marigolds
and copper bells and paraded
through each village square and each traffic light
in every city—they have offered me a gun
to kill your children, your cousins, anyone
who knelt before your god and ate
your feast, your sin, we can taste it—our tongues
roll with tinny consonants, stolen and distorted
from some scripture, we carry tambourines
and cymbals and drums—clang of sword, refrain
of gun—the calf leads us through the marketplace
and the shops lower their shutters as we pass
and we chant the asking price of your flesh

Poorna Swami is a writer and dancer based in Bangalore.

  • K SHESHU BABU

    Poem with powerful message .. saffron tinged with blood red ink …