• Write Down ‘I am a Miyah’: An FIR against Poetry?

    ICF Team

    July 12, 2019

    Image courtesy Firstpost

    The Assam Police has filed an FIR in response to a complaint about a poem that describes the problems faced by Bengali Muslims regarding citizenship. The complaint alleges that the poet intends to depict the Assamese as xenophobic, and threatens the Assamese people as well as “national security and harmonious social atmosphere”. “The real intention of this poem,” said complainant, “is to motivate and provoke their community against the system.”

    The community being referred to is the Bengali Muslim community; and the FIR comes in the run up to July 31st, when the final list of the updated National Register of Citizens will be published.

    The poem, which led to the complaint and FIR, is part of a movement called Miyah poetry. Miyah Poetry appeared in the public realm in 2017 when poet and social activist Hafiz Ahmed posted the poem “Write Down 'I am a Miyah'” on his Facebook page. The poem, which keeps Mahmoud Darwish’s Identity Card in mind, was a means, said Ahmed, to insist on the dignity of Bengali Muslims in Assam. The poem went viral. Shalim M Hussain wrote a response the same day, and then in one of the Char-Chapori dialects the next day. A poem by Shahjahan Ali followed a couple of days later. What began as one poem and a response turned into a series of poems by fifteen poets from all over Assam.

    Write Down ‘I am a Miyah’
    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*

    In an interview, Hafiz Ahmed says that though Miyah means a babu or a gentleman, the word has become a derogatory reference to Muslims who come to Assam from Bengal. Miyas, he says, are not only looked down upon; their citizenship is also constantly questioned. Of Miyah poetry, Ahmed says: “This is a movement about asserting our rights through poetry. The writers in this movement write about the 10 lakh people who became homeless due to land erosion, who are constantly harassed over citizenship, who are hated and humiliated by religious fundamentalists and ultra-nationalists.”


    *The translation of the poem was first published on the Sunflower Collective Blogspot, September 12, 2016.

    Video courtesy Karwan-e-Mohabbat and Newsclick.

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