Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Some Activists Said

On October 1, 2009, some men in fatigues walked into the village of Gompad in Dantewada district of Chhattisgarh, and fired at the people. Nine people died. Among the dead was Kanni Kartam, roughly about 20-year-old, of the Dorla tribe, whose body was allegedly found to be in pieces, with her clothes lying around her. Her year-and-half old son Suresh was found wailing over his mother's dead body, with three of his fingers chopped. Kanni's younger sister and parents were also killed. Her husband had gone to the jungle when the attack took place, and that's how he was saved. While a fact-finding team visited this village -- the only way one can get to Gompad is by walking or taking a bicycle from the nearest town which is 40 kms away -- the chronology of events and the facts of the incident were misleading. A petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India with 13 petitioners, but contrary to the Court's order to have the petitioners (including Kanni's husband/Suresh's father) protected, there is no information of their whereabouts. This poetry is an ode to Kanni Kartam, the victim of the Indian government's Operation Green Hunt. 

Some activists said
my breasts were sliced
like ham
      slapped on a slice of bread.

Some activists said
my breasts were chopped
like potatoes
      to be tossed on a hot pan.

Some activists said
my clothes were strewn apart
      around my body, except for on my body
like strands of noodles lying scattered
      around the pan, except on the pan.

Some activists said
my chastity was infringed upon;
       that I was raped.
That the axe cut me leaving my muscles in shreds
after multiple male ego projections pierced through me.

Some activists said
I was the face of Operation Green Hunt
except that my body was decomposed.
But nobody remembers how I look.

Some activists said
Suresh wailed to see me wailing in pain.
That he was dropped on my dead chest.

Some activists said
His baby fingers were grounded
when he held my breast
     which nourished him.

Some activists said
They were at peace that I was dead
     what with my body dissected
        what with my womanhood dissected.

But all I ask is:
Will just one activist
trek to my abode amid Ram's Dandakaranya?

Will just one activist
stop asking questions and
find out what was done to me, my village, my family
on that October morning?

Will just one activist
stop asking
     stop negating
         stop dissenting
but instead start walking
     towards finding my bloodied grave?

[This poem was recited at the XIII International Conference of the Indian Association for Women's Studies (IAWS) held in Wardha, Maharashtra, from January 21-24, 2011]


  1. this photo and the incidents around it have haunted me for quite some time now. it is typical of what happens in a war zone and adivasis throughout the world have had to put up with such atrocities for centuries now. the indian state has never had soft hands with regard to adivasis and especially when counter insurgency is involved. be even more eloquent on a regular basis.

  2. I know all this and more
    Yet, I choose to ignore
    For what to me is dear
    Is not blood but my beer
    I close my eyes and gulp my drink
    Aware I'm standing on the brink
    Saddened at the fate of some
    Wondering when my turn will come.