I Am ‘Miya’ — Reclaiming Identity Through Protest Poetry

“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

Courtesy: Indian Cultural Forum



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