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The Adivasi Writes Back: A Poem By Jacinta Kerketta

A poem that shames the destroyers of adivasi culture

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The Adivasi Writes Back: A Poem By Jacinta Kerketta
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They brought to us their God and said,
‘He shall redeem you from your sins.’
‘What sins have we committed?’
We asked.
And they were bewildered:
How do they establish their God’s existence,
Without claims of sin and salvation?

‘Look how poor, deprived you are,’ they said,
‘This is a retribution for your sins.’
We showed them the expanse of our fields,
Our forests, rivers, mountains and streams,
And the heaps of grains in our granaries.
They then said,
‘A better world awaits you after death.’
We replied, ‘There is no world after that.
Right here, with our ancestors, we remain
And dwell amidst our generations to come.’

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Then panic seized them,
They knew not what to do,
These people do not see sin.
They do not believe in the next world,
Nor in hell or heaven.

Now they asked us to show them our God,
And we pointed to our mountains and trees.
But when asked in turn
to reveal to us their own,
They panicked once again
Wondering how to show their Almighty.

One day, they had the moneylender
Return to us our mortgaged land,
And said, ‘This is the power of our God!’
We bowed down before that Almighty
And remained bowed for heaven knows how long.
With us bowed our future generations,
And then, many a century.

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Blissfully unaware were we
That with God they also brought weapons unseen,
Which they used to wage wars around the world,
In places rich in land, forests and oil.
But how do we fight against these odds?
We seem to have given all responsibility
for our self-preservation to their God.

(This appeared in the print edition as "The responsibility for our self-preservation")

Poet: Jacinta Kerketta

Translated from the Hindi by Bhumika Chawla D’Souza

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