A translation of Gawaahi by Gauhar Raza, by Rituparna Sengupta

That you have lived through
the barren Fall

That the flow of time
was treacherous then,
Strong was the tide
and hard to swim against

That you have lived through times
when the sovereign believed
themselves divine

That you were present when
the sentries of this realm
in the dead of night
had launched attack
and ordered each townsman
to stand in line

Dark was the night when the land was plundered—
The formation complete, each pocket was emptied
And the very bread was snatched from hungry lips

That you have seen inflamed passions
raging through homes and towns unchecked

That they came charged with hatred

This very hate burnt down the homes of
those who came out on the highway,
seeking their rights

That you have seen the terrorised
whose homes were torched

That the ashes of
shops, universities , and homes
clung to your feet, in tears

The Shah’s* court is brimming with hatred,
In the prisoner’s dock, the court
stands handcuffed
These judges are rightly accused of
selling their books, their pens,
selling their judgement

That it was all sold cheap

That Justice today
stands in the people’s tribunal

Have faith—
That even in this sterile season
Each word of yours
will be recorded,
Each word of yours
will meet with justice,
Each word of yours
will mend a torn collar ,
Each word of yours will
adorn Spring’s finery,
Each word of yours
will illumine the way
for generations to come

Testify, for you owe this debt
Testify, for this is your duty

* Shah: king/monarch

GAUHAR RAZA is a noted poet, activist, scientist, and documentary filmmaker based in New Delhi. He has published numerous research papers, reports, books, and popular articles in the area of public understanding of science, as well as two collections of poems entitled Jazbon ki Lau Tez Karo and Khamoshi. He is founder editor of the Journal of Scientific Temper and is on the editorial board of many reputed international research journals. Raza is also known for his documentary films First War of Independence-1857In Dark TimesInqilab, and A Beautiful Spaceship. He can be heard reciting the original poem, ‘Gawaahi,’ here.

RITUPARNA SENGUPTA translates poetry and literary fiction, besides writing essays on literature and cinema for academic and popular publications. She is currently working on her doctoral dissertation in Culture Studies at IIT Delhi. Her published writing can be read here.

KRITI CHAKRABORTY, the illustrator, is a self-taught artist. He has worked as an illustrator for various little magazines and publications such as Ulto Durbin, Halum, Bagher Baccha, Kagajer Thonga, Kabikalpa, Aainanagar and others. Kriti’s paintings and illustrations can be found here.

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