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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 37, New Delhi, August 28, 2021

An Afghan Woman Speaks | Sagari Chhabra

Friday 27 August 2021, by Sagari Chhabra

Long years ago, the British ruled,
They declared: ‘the sun never sets on our Empire’,
But when they left, they set off such a fire,
Over a million people perished in that ire.
The Partition was South Asia’s Holocaust,
Yet no one asked,
While our children lay asleep,
That history is to do a repeat,
For the blood of natives runs so cheap.
You have abandoned us again;
After holding the controls for over a decade,
You flee in choppers across the glade;
The airport is overrun
By people desperate to embark,
Hanging insanely onto planes,
Only to drop onto the tarmac;
You have fled,
Leaving the living and the dead
To anarchy
And the Taliban’s autarchy.

We shroud our faces in burkhas,
The world looks so narrow behind a slit,
Wondering with guilt,
Will our girls still go to school,
Without being forced into marriages
Under the Taliban’s rule.
We remember our Malala,
She was shot at in the bus
Without so much as a fuss.

The destruction of the Bamiyan’s
Caused so much dismay,
Yet you watch our fractured peace,
Flimsy security and order chip away,
As they come searching for our girls
Under the sway
of bayonet powered lust;
Must you then turn your face away
Rather than stay to join the fray?

Mothers are giving away their babies
Across fences to strangers
Unable to provide food,
Can you even gauge the fear
That pervades our mood?
You will send bottled water as welfare,
But I ask of you,
Is this fair,
Just or even honourable,
To enter a land
And leave the people
At the mercy of the Taliban?

We want peace,
Perhaps naan on the table with some meat,
Not bearded men with Kalashnikovs
Littering the street;
Pointing guns at us;
So we dumbly obey
Turning unwilling prey;
O, give us our dignity,
Our human rights,
This very day,
For in our freedom
Lies your own,
Lest the seeds of the Taliban
Scatter and get sown!

Sagari Chhabra*
24 August ‘21

*Is an award-winning author and film-maker. She is the director of the ‘Hamaara Itihaas’ (Our History) archives.

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