Death of a Dalit

(for Rohith Vemula)
they pushed you
to the edge of their village

but,
you broke into
the cellars of their Agrahaaras

they sealed your lips
with their saffron shores

but,
you shrieked
from beneath the ocean
in your blue throat

they built walls
to keep you out

but,
you hang, now,
from the twisted tongue
of their tainted roof

what did you dream of,
in that last second,
when the thin, very thin, crevice
between life and death
closed its foggy mouth?

did you hope
that a few decades later,
that a few deaths apart,
the walls would break
and the roofs shall walk, again,
away from the ashes
they carry beneath their breasts?

with the portrait of our Baba
in your arms
you walked,
with dignity,
under the windows,
they closed on your face,

now,
our Baba waits,
with wings made from rainbows,
near the cloud that’s about to weep,
and holds you,
in an embrace
that reminds you
of a crowded cradle

a puddle of warmth
spreads like tears
on your nerves,

Baba leads you
into a room
misted in moonlight
where the untouched angels
hum songs you heard
in the sleep you’ve never had

Sitting in the centre
are all the lives
that swung
in the margins
from the ceiling fans
from the creaking branches

all the roses
that were plucked
when they just began
to push open their petals
against the sting of the daylight
afraid that very soon
our shadows shall swallow their suns

you sit,
slowly,
by their side,

with tears,
you look,
at all the gentle eyes
whose pupils pause,
and rage,

waiting for the dream
of dignity to descend
on our Dalit lives’
and deaths’

Note
Agrahaara refers to those quarters of the village inhabited exclusively by Brahmins. Many marginalized sections still think of the universities, and other places of learning, as modern day Agrahaaras

Rohith Vemula, a Dalit research scholar and scientist of University of Hyderabad (UoH) hanged himself to death 12 days after he was expelled from his hostel along with four other researchers. The 28-year-old, hailing from Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh, was a Ph.D. second-year student. The five students were denied access to hostels and other buildings on the campus except their classroom, library and conferences and workshops related to their subject of study based on the recommendations of a sub-committee of the Executive Council, based on a proctorial committee enquiry. The research scholars were expelled from their hostel by the university in December following a clash with leaders of Hindu fundamentalist student group Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). 

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Abul Kalam Azad Written by:

Abul Kalam Azad is a poet based in Chennai

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