01 January 1970

No Country For Muslims


No Country For Muslims

Angshuman Kar’s poem speaks about the consequences of reducing one’s identity to a piece of paper

Photo: Getty Images


I need a paper.
A miraculous paper.
I have a black-and-white paper.
It’s called Voter’s card.
But that won’t do.
I have a saffron-white-green paper.
It’s called Aadhaar card.
But even that won’t do.
I have a light purple paper.
That paper is called Ration card.
That won’t do at all.
I need a special paper.
A miraculous paper.

My father’s name is Sheik Suleman.
He is eighty.
I tell him, abba, give me paper.
Abba says, flood has carried it away
Storm has blown it far
Starvation has eaten it up.
I don’t have any paper.
My body is now a paper.
On my hand and leg is written a history,
the history of whatever I have done so far.
The words which were kept hidden so far in my heart
are no more hidden there.
They are now written in my sad eyes.
Take it, I am giving you my body.
Tell him to read this paper.
I tell him, Hon’ble Sir,
This is my paper, my abba.
Read the history scripted all over his hands and legs,
the history of how this country was made.
While reading, you will be able to listen to
The siren of a factory,
The sweet sound of a cricket ball striking the middle of a bat,
the tune of a shehnai, the bol of a tabla.
Please read those few words written
in his sad eyes
“I am the farmer in a jute farm
I am Azharuddin of Benson and Hedges in 1985
I am Bismillah Khan, Zakir Hussain
I am a Muslim by religion but before that I am an Indian.”

But he can’t read my abba’s hands and legs.
He can’t read my abba’s eyes.
By reading only meaningless words on the paper for years
he has forgotten to read a human body.

I again start to run in search of a miraculous paper.
I need a miraculous paper.
If I don’t get the paper
I won’t be able to play the drum in next year’s Durgapuja
If I don’t get the paper
I won’t be able to mould goddess Lakshmi’s saral1 out of mud.
If I don’t get the paper
I won’t be able to stand in between the two warring parties carrying arms and
shriek at the top of my voice, ‘What the hell are you doing?’

Cool down.

I need a paper.
A miraculous paper.
I start running from Kashmir to Kanyakumari.
I find
People in Kashmir saying, We won’t give you paper.
People in Punjab saying, We won’t give you paper.
People in Assam saying, We won’t give you paper.
People in UP saying, We won’t give you paper.
Even people in Delhi are saying, We won’t give you paper.

No, Hon’ble Sir,
I am not with them.
You need paper
I’ll give you paper.
I am Sheikh Saddam, son of Sheikh Suleman.
I don’t have any job
I ramble in the jungles and in the secret tunnels of

human hearts

In search of a nilkantha bird that is called poetry.
I will give you a paper made out of our faith
I will give you a fountain pen made out of our dreams
Please fill that fountain pen with the ink of trust
and write afresh a poem
called India.

(Translated from the original Bengali into English by the poet.)

1 A printed ritual plate that depicts goddess Lakshmi.

Angshuman Kar is professor of english and cultural studies and director, centre for Australian studies at the university of Burdwan, India