Poem: Justice for Manisha Valmiki

Photo: NDTV

By Sonali Pattnaik

There was a time
Theory tried to explain
Rape isn’t about sex
It’s about power
In this godforsaken land
Theory has nothing on praxis
Naked and bloody power stands

Look at what they did to her
Gang raped her, cut her tongue out
Broke her neck, her spine,
The bones that held her up
They broke her body so badly
The doctors could do little to keep her alive

They dragged out her destroyed body
Once it could no longer survive
And burnt her like a pile of rags
In the dead of the night
While her mother and her brother
Cried and begged to catch a final glimpse
The police used their power
To burn her every inch and invisibilise

Body only to them, nobody to them
The police locked the family in their own house
To keep them from their own child’s corpse
Because in this horrifying land of ours
A Dalit, a woman, is only power’s
Her mother could not hold her own child
In her very last life-less hours
No post-mortem, the woman’s body
Is to be finished in hate
So she is no longer her own witness
A forged report will declare
She has never been raped

No we cannot let you go in peace
Why did we not hear your blood-drenched screams, distracted by media screens,
The laws of the land are in the hands
Of patriarchy and caste
And they had their free run
Power casts the dice again
And on a woman’s life again it lands
The myths are not just myths in these lands, Only the rescues remain mythical, ephemera
The texts teach us that
But your resistance, after you no longer are,
Has now begun
We will not let power get away
After what they have done and undone
Not again, not again, how many times?
How many of us will be led to this
Barbaric sacrifice?
We will howl till justice is done
We will be your cut tongue
We will howl till power is erased
And our full humanity alone our defence
Your memory we shall not let fade
It will be for our battle a glorious face
Justice will be done
Too late all this and yet…

Sonali Pattnaik teaches literature in English in Ahmedabad. She has a PhD in the subject and her thesis elaborates upon the body politics of contemporary Bollywood cinema within its neo-liberal context and its complex colonial and pre-colonial histories. She has taught English and film studies at Delhi University, Mumbai University, SNDT University and Whistling Woods International. She is a poet, a visual artist and academic and has been an active participant in gender activism as well as activism around issues regarding environmental destruction, minority rights and displacement. She is a committed mother who revels in homeschooling her daughter and is currently working on turning her thesis into a book.


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Read the latest issue of Cafe Dissensus Magazine, “Shaheen Bagh and the Anti-CAA Protests: The Struggle to Create New Concepts”, edited by Huzaifa Omair Siddiqi, JNU, New Delhi, India.

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