A poem of mine, written in rage, anger and pain against the genocide of the Palestinian children, was published by Poems India. Considering the things I write about, I’m used to trolls. I always care more for the opinions coming from people I love and cherish. But this time just one troll unsettled me. The troll attacked me not for being a poet but for me having my name and my identity. The troll came for my very existence, which led me to stand with the white shrouds of the dead Palestinians. The troll said I’m like them, the Palestinians, and I can be exterminated like them – not with loud bombs but with the absolute silence of onlookers.
When Indian Muslims are called ‘Hamas’ or equalled to Palestinians, it triggers among members of the community, all of the recent traumas, from the reading down of Article 370 to the National Register of Citizens to the Citizenship Amendment Act to the lynchings to the Delhi riots.
The community has been helplessly watching Bilkis Bano and Zakia Jafri.
The community knows how Kashmir had become a prison of sorts during the internet shutdown and how now, Manipur is the same.
The community has watched helplessly how Danish Ali, an MP, was called names in the parliament which is considered the sacred place of democracy.
In all such cases, the silence was pervasive enough. The community understood that they are not equal to others.
Those who used to find comfort in the belief that the brotherhood of the Muslim countries will speak for them, have been disappointed.
When the bombs are killing and wounding children in Palestine, hardly any word has come from the Islamic Ummah. The jubilation in India when Israeli forces kill innocent Palestinians is bone chilling, but this silence is a severe blow for Muslim minorities too. They feel disowned.
This raging genocide of the Palestinian people might push the community to ask whether the idea of a pan-world Muslim solidarity is a sham.
I am forced to ask:
Am I dead?
Why am I smelling of silence?
There are two silences on this earth now:
One of the dead
And other of the oppressors?
Which side am I on?
Is there any meaningful news of peace, cease-fire or condemnation from the Arabs? There are two silences and Saudi Arabia chooses the silence of the oppressors.
The Indian Muslims’ takeaway is not only the silence but the words behind the silence. And the words are loud and clear. As a disillusioned friend says,
“Duniya me do hi mazhab hain, amir aur garib.”
(There are only two religions in this world, rich and poor)
I am reminded of how poor Yemenis who have been being killed or starved to death for many years don’t even have a Mahmoud Darwish to hold a mirror to their grief. Or maybe they do, and we are not allowed to know. We hardly know of any Yemeni poets.
Grief is the capital of identity politics that gives profits only to the elites. In turn, the elites have only one religion which is capital and profit.
Moumita Alam is a poet from West Bengal. Her poetry collection The Musings of the Dark was published in 2020.
Featured image: UNRWA Photos Archive © 1985 UNRWA / H. Haider.