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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 44 New Delhi October 22, 2016

Identity of the Dead

Sunday 23 October 2016

Sunlight slanting through the branches
fell on a dead body lying
beneath the roadside tree;
unshaven face, sunken eye sockets,
tattered clothes covering a skeleton
of hunger, neglect, deprivation.

The onlookers stopped awhile,
gathered at the site,
cast a curious glance, then went away.
Nothing surprising,
such scenes not unusual;
soon it faded from the collective memory.

But suddenly there was a commotion.
A rumour was afloat:
the dead man might be a Dalit.
Queries started mounting.
Who was he? Really a Dalit
or somebody else: a homeless beggar?

Mediamen thronged the village
to ascertain the veracity;
TVs showed it repeatedly
as breaking news.
Apprehending the tag of anti-Dalit,
the powers that be set up an enquiry.

Controversy not dying down
continued to raise an accusing finger
amidst a spurt of denial.
Finally the findings were out: no, not a Dalit.
A sigh of relief was heaved—
vote-bank not dented!

Poverty, hunger may stare in the face,
driving the poor to commit suicide.
They die anyway. What’s the big deal?
But how can a Dalit take his life?
Peripheral, ostracised, yet
appeased, sought after at the hustings!

Lucknow A.K. Das

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62