Poem: Our democracy wails at night

Painting: Krittika Ramanujan

By Arsheen Kaur 

After Vikas Jatav

only 17, they shot him for
praying in the temple. The
temple where golden gods sit.

they shot him
as if he entered their throats
full of smog.

wondering his caste or religion?
Dalit or a Muslim?
after all, their lives are less expensive
in the business of hindutva.

strain your eyes into two
and see the amount of grief there is
in the eyes of his mother.


After Ankit Sharma

in a street where the mob
scattered like zombies, circled
him, dragging to a small bridge.

51 injuries on his body, wretched
by knives and rods and stones
and thrown dead into the drain
sore with the color red.

they thought he was a muslim
they thought he was a hindu
when he walked towards them
with his hymn of peace.

shove your fingers in the drain
where you kill and dump men
like flies.


After Faizan

“Chant the national anthem
till your Allah comes to save you.
We’ll give you Azaadi!”
they said.

he lay on the road, injured
with their stick
thumping on his chest,

beaten and abused by the
men in uniform
who filmed their sins
to masturbate in their cabins.


After Junaid Khan

in the train that evening
he was returning home
with friends after shopping for Eid.
Would you know the excitement
of a 16-year-old?

called beef-eaters and religious slurs
and stabbed,
the mob threw them out of the train.

in his brother’s arms,
he bled to death.
what an irony! that
he loved soybean biryani.

wear a skull cap and a beard
and see whose hatred it is.


After Pehlu Khan

he was a dairy farmer,
transporting cattle from a weekly market
attacked to death by about a mob of

they were cow vigilantes who
murdered him for the cow he didn’t kill
and walked away with pride of saving
a cow they never saw.

after all, the cow is a sacred animal,
we worship on festivals and
butcher for export.

find me a beast as cruel as man.


After Mohammed Akhlaq 

that night when the village was
about to sleep, the local temple
announced that there’s been
a cow slaughter.

i didn’t know it was easy to take lives.
all you need is a mob and
a police that does not arrive and
a court that wears a shroud.

how we went looking for the mob –
finding they are close friends of
a minister, cheering him, seated
in the front row of an election rally.


where’s God?
stuck in the riots of last night.

call the police!
they have been here since;
rods, swords, and guns.

what law!?
calendars age desperately for the common people.

government? politicians?
in the parliament celebrating the victory for Ram Mandir.

the funeral is next to the community compound
where they (only) come for election rallies.

there is a vigil march tonight.
bring candles and placards, and phones with memory space.

Arsheen Kaur is a writer, poet, and development communications specialist based out of Delhi and Toronto. Some of her areas of interest include feminism, memory, and identity. She aspires to be a novelist. She is an English literature and film studies graduate from one of the oldest institutions in India, AJK-Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia. Her work has been published in The Wire, Live Wire, Hindustan Times, The Quint, and The Alipore Post, among others.


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Poetics and politics of the ‘everyday’: Engaging with India’s northeast”, edited by Bhumika R, IIT Jammu and Suranjana Choudhury, NEHU, India.

2 thoughts

  1. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” – MLK Jr

    There is an increasing pattern of injustices across the globe in the name of nationalism and unfortunately the majority is buying this idea and voting these hate mongers to power. The victims are always the ones who are far far away from the parliament and the eyes of the courts.

    Liked by 1 person

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