By Amrita Saikia

The poem is set in the backdrop of ethnic violence against minorities. The poem took shape from the interviews that I conducted with the victims of ethnic violence during data collection for my research. I gave the narratives of the victims the shape of a poem.

Jittered, they wake up from their sleep,
The memories of violence are etched on their minds deep,
A commotion in the dead of the night,
They could very well recall everyone’s plight.

Uncountable men with guns and sickle,
Charged towards the unarmed people,
Some were shot and some were hacked,
Women were dragged by their hair and raped.

Houses and cattle sheds, granaries and bullock pairs,
Valuables and documents were all set on fire,
They ran through the jungle and crossed mountains and rivers,
While narrating the incident, they quivered.

Uprooted from their hearths and homes,
Empty handed, they left the villages in hordes,
Rain drenched clothes clung to their bodies,
Fear dwelt in their minds and hunger in their bellies.

They questioned themselves of their existence,
They were even deprived of their pittance,
A cloud of uncertainty loomed large,
Of being criminals they were charged.

Homeless, stateless, refugees and displaced,
It is easier to label them and deface,
Only those who suffer the ordeal have known,
How they got past the nights and witnessed dawn.


About the author

Amrita Saikia is currently an M.Phil. research scholar at Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.


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