Steamed Rice by Debasis Mukhopadhyay

(For Irom Chanu Sharmila, a Human rights activist and poet from Manipur, a conflict-ridden state in the Northeast of India. For the past fifteen years, she has been on hunger strike in protest of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act/AFSPA (introduced in Jammu & Kashmir & in seven Northeastern Indian states since 1958) which licenses the security forces to make arrests without warrants and shoot suspected individuals without fear of prosecution. Her fast-unto-death was spurred by the infamous Malom massacre (November 2, 2000) in which 10 civilians were shot dead by the Indian army. Chanu, an ‘undertrial prisoner’ in the eyes of the Indian government, has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International.)



Turned 43

Weighs 43

Prisoner of conscience

Not me

It’s my body

That has learnt to survive on the use of dreams

The daily knocks of the Ryle’s tube

Teem with thousands of Thursdays

Life still begs forgiveness

Until thou wilt


I remember it all started on a fasting Thursday

Each day has been a fasting Thursday

Since fifteen years

No food no water no vote

It has come to this

My body has to endure the four walls to sort out things for me

Not me

It’s my body that won the ground for detention and remand to the hospitals

For it yearns to settle a small debt as a citizen

In section 309 of Indian penal code

One finds a bad translation of hunger strike

Hunger strike is not suicide nor crime

A layman’s look can also tell

You are not wrong if you deem hunger strike to be worthy

To be synonymous with fasting with hope

Killing my body for fifteen years

It’s what I have been accused of

A layman can think it’s a joke

Not India

My fasting body is her legal estate

For being steadied with hope


Not me

It’s my body that chose to grieve with bodies each day

Bodies not found

Reach for the clouds

Bodies disappeared

Mouth the stillness of the storm

Bodies found

Crouch in wrecked

Bodies raped

Clamber higher to pluck a saffron-green sky

Bodies dropped

No not out of the hammock

Those ones shot on the nape of the neck

Worm under the army shade

Bodies bled out through the forehead bloom

Still gaze on the sky

Bodies marked

Still greet the morning sun ignorant of the country’s law

Bodies flagged

Still busy dying in “encounters”

Bodies crack

Bodies creep

Bodies pry

My body

For fifteen years

Stomping its feet

On the ground of silence

A Silence that does not go blank

For fifteen years

My body is made a prisoner of conscience

For it has learnt to wait until we stop reloading our wounds

With silence to eat steamed rice


4 thoughts on “Steamed Rice by Debasis Mukhopadhyay

  1. Pingback: … reloading the wounds with silence | debasis mukhopadhyay

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