• I Am ‘Miya’ — Reclaiming Identity Through Protest Poetry


    July 1, 2019

    "Miya" poetry is a reclaiming of one’s Muslim identity by the Bengali-origin Muslims of Assam; protest poetry that rebels against subjugation and oppression. "Miya" is an Urdu word that means 'gentleman', but it has become a slur in Assam and is used as a term of abuse. Poets and activists from the Bengali Muslim community have found a way to take the derogatory term "Miya" and subvert it. Miya poetry seeks answers to the questions of belonging and citizenship. It echoes the fears of a community threatened by exclusion from the NRC — the National Register of Citizens.

    Write Down ‘I am a Miyah’
    by Hafiz Ahmed

    Write Down
    I am a Miya
    My serial number in the NRC is 200543
    I have two children
    Another is coming
    Next summer.
    Will you hate him
    As you hate me?

    I am a Miya
    I turn waste, marshy lands
    To green paddy fields
    To feed you.
    I carry bricks
    To build your buildings
    Drive your car
    For your comfort
    Clean your drain
    To keep you healthy.
    I have always been
    In your service
    And yet
    you are dissatisfied!
    Write down
    I am a Miya,
    A citizen of a democratic, secular, Republic
    Without any rights
    My mother a D voter,
    Though her parents are Indian.

    If you wish kill me, drive me from my village,
    Snatch my green fields
    hire bulldozers
    To roll over me.
    Your bullets
    Can shatter my breast
    for no crime.

    I am a Miya
    Of the Brahamaputra
    Your torture
    Has burnt my body black
    Reddened my eyes with fire.
    I have nothing but anger in stock.
    Keep away!
    Turn to Ashes.

    Translated by Shalim M. Hussain


    First published in Newsclick. Video courtesy Karwan-e-Mohabbat.

    Donate to the Indian Writers' Forum, a public trust that belongs to all of us.