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On the 40th year since 1984 's catastrophic violence against the Sikh people: a poem for my people, inspired by so many people. Dignity to the victims and survivors of the genocidal violence and the victim and survivors of the violence turned inwards...in relationships, marriages, homes, childhoods. Wars have their endings inside families (as Cynthia Enloe notes in her writing on conflicts around the world) --may we write our own new endings, we the children of 1984, raising the grandchildren of 1984. This is a postscript to Harinder Singh Mehboob Saab's beautiful heroic poetry and call to claim our divine dignity. 

 

ਬੇਪੱਤ ਹੋਇਆਂ ਕੌਮਾਂ ਦੇ ਘਰ,

Baypatt ho-i-aa(n) kaumaa(n) day ghar

ਦੂਰ ਫਰੇਬੀ ਧਰਤੇ|

Door pharaybee dhar ‘tay

ਬਦਨਸੀਬ ਪੈਰਾਂ ਦੇ ਹੇਠਾਂ,

Badanaseeb pairaa(n) day hayṭ'haa(n)

ਖ਼ਾਕ ਵਿਸ਼ੈਲੀ ਗਰਕੇ|

Ḵhaak vishailee garakay

ਮੂੰਹ-ਜ਼ੋਰ ਸਮਾਂ ਨਾ ਕੌਮੇ !

Moo(n)ha-zor samaa(n) naa kaumay

ਮੇਟ ਸਕੇਗਾ ਤੈਨੂੰ ;

Mayṭ sakaygaa tainoo(n)

ਆਪਣੀ ਪੱਤ ਪਛਾਣ ਲਵੇਂ ਜੇ,

Aapaṇee patt pachhaaṇ lavay(n) jay

ਲੜ ਮਾਹੀ ਦਾ ਫੜ ਕੇ |

Laṛ maahee daa phaṛ kay

-- Harinder Singh Mehboob.  

Returned his national poetry award to the Indian Government in protest against the 1984 assault on Sikhs. 

O violated community 

Left on the far horizon by treachery 

under your fated feet 

poisonous ash is a flurry 

Staggering challenges,  

Can’t erase you 

If clutching the Beloved  

you recognize your dignity 

--Mallika Kaur (+sangat), unsatisfied translators 

 

 

PostScript,  2024:

Dignity to the dead. Still unaccounted for 

Dignity to ten thousand pairs of shoes unclaimed outside Darbar Sahib,
    Lending dignity to tens of thousands made untraceable in ten years after

Dignity to (38, 42, 75) unknown, gurdwaras under 1984’s Indian Army siege

Dignity to those who survived 

Dignity to those who chose silence for survival 

Dignity to those whose existence became resistance 

Dignity to the returned awards, lost jobs, usurped lands, charred libraries,
                                 uprooted nishaan sahibs, mutilated family trees

Dignity to those pulled out from schools, homes, farms, everything familiar

Dignity to those pushed in to depression 

Dignity to those left to numb it without treatment, with guilt

Dignity to those married off too soon, in desperate bids for safety

Dignity to those marriages that crumbled unsafely 

Dignity to those tortured in cells tasked with making death seem sweeter

Dignity to those subjected to violence turned inwards 

Dignity to the children whose parents died 

Dignity to the childhoods that died 

Dignity to the parents who lived for their parents who did not

Dignity to those who could never again experience joy without guilt

Dignity to those who fight cancerous oppressions that eat us within

Dignity to those who lost art and heart song 

Dignity to those who refuse to cease dreaming 

Dignity to those who oscillate in between 

Dignity to the keepers of memory that keeps them alive as it kills them

Dignity to the grandchildren of 1984 who must dream their own 2084

Dignity when we say more, because we are more than the victims of 1984.

Dignity when we say less, because we are more than the victims of 1984.

Un-erased. 

                           --mallika kaur. 2024.

Mallika Kaur

Mallika Kaur

Mallika Kaur is a writer, lawyer and organizer who serves as the Executive Director of the Sikh Family Center, the only Sikh American organization focused on gender justice. She teaches at UC Berkeley School of Law and is the author of the book “Faith, Gender, and Activism in the Punjab Conflict: The Wheat Fields Still Whisper,” Palgrave MacMillan.

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