Poems in Saffron Ink: Guilty of Wearing White Caps For Prayer

Seventeen-year-old Junaid Khan was stabbed on a train when he was returning home after Eid shopping in Delhi. He and his brothers were attacked for being Muslims and 'beef-eaters'.

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


Street Performance. Lynched. 2017.

They are dying as boys
are meant to die in the market,
on a train, at the threshold of a home
they could barely grow up in.
Boys, not men, mortal and guiltless
but guilty for wearing white caps for prayer,
three hairs on their chin, the few names
of god they learned by heart.

Al-Shahid        Al-Hayy      An-Noor
God witness    God living    God light

They are bleeding their boyish blood in these streets
that scream in the saffron din inside this smog
over a country, discoloured—God witness
God living    God light—it is hard to breathe
and keep breathing as youth asphyxiates
on sermons shouted from the pulpits of corrupted gods.

Cow Nation    Nation Mother    Mother Cow
God witness    God living           God light

Calves are fodder for packs of wolves
with machetes and prayerbooks, misquoted
to absolve the bodies of boys who didn’t want to die.

Savagery is our salvation

you say, silent, as the sinners walk the streets with candles,
drumming slogans of the old revolutions you erased.
These streets were never playgrounds for children.
They are battlefields.
And you are the victor who feasted too soon.
Marrow of boyhood is a rancorous prize.

God witness    God living    God light

Zainab cried her beloved’s name, she cried she had protected him.
He believed in another’s god—will his slaughter now protect him?

In how many epochs will you pretend the gods are with you?
The gods are falling from the sky.
Of course, their bodies will never be your regret—they will perish
in confetti of newsprint and maggots.

God witness    God living    God light

Poorna Swami is a writer and dancer based in Bangalore.