The policewomen’s poem

Police Inspector Sujata Patil's poem

Months ago, molested and forgotten were the policewomen of Mumbai. They did not even file FIRs against their molesters. At that time, it seemed a clear indictment of the police force and its humiliating view of the vulnerability of women that even police women could not seek justice from the police.

All of a sudden, possibly bolstered by the tide of support for the plight of women in the aftermath of the Delhi gangrape, we have one of the police women, Inspector Sujata Patil penning a poem full of fury over her molestation. The protesters being Muslim, the policewoman being Hindu, and mention of Ramzan, Holi and Diwali in a poem wishing violent retribution that never happened has been taken by many as an encouragement for police violence against protesters.

I have a different view on this. This woman works in the police force. This is for her an office newsletter. She is speaking of an incident whose frustration is shared by many colleagues. She is speaking of a violation that happened to her at work. For a woman to express herself with such naked passion is in itself a landmark achievement. To add to that the woman being a police officer in a country famous for chauvinistic policemen? It speaks of her trust in her companions and her courage in speaking up, that was likely created by citizen support. For the letter to actually be published shows respect on the part of the editor.

In my eyes, this is squarely the story of a woman speaking up of sexual harassment at the workplace – an incident kept under wraps for months. It takes courage to do this. It is a milestone in itself for this to happen and a much welcome change in the acceptance of realities of women and what they experience.

While the poem mentions Ramzan, it speaks of the rioters having forgotten it and forgotten humanity itself. This to me by no means sounds like an anti religion rant, and in my view, religion must not be allowed to silence this woman bravely speaking up.

Police Inspector Sujata Patil's poem

Here is a translation as I see it.

I did not understand such a small thing
The stick was in hand, the pistol was at waist
The vehicles were burning, the eyes seemed intoxicated
If they were given a push, they would burn too
I did not understand such a small thing.

The courage was firm, the honor was being violated,
We could have struck them down one by one, what was the need to wait for an order,
(police action against rioters was prevented for lack of the command)
I did not understand such a small thing.

The traitors dared to touch the memorial to fallen soldiers
If we cut off their hands, no one would plead for them
I did not understand such a small thing

They forgot Ramzan, they forgot humanity
We could have felled them one by one
What was the need to fear?
The stick was in our hands
I did not understand such a small thing

The attack was on us, The people were witness
If we had rained a Holi of bullets,
there wouldn’t be a need to burn Ravan for Navaratri
Ramzaan and Diwali would happen together
I did not understand such a small thing

To nurture a snake
And talk of brotherhood
Dreams of immortal soldiers
And people in fear
I did not understand such a small thing.

In my view, the poem clearly sees the rioters as the villains. Their violation, their betrayal of brotherhood and any goodwill is the rage. I don’t see this as a poem against Muslims at all. In my view, she sees the rioters as not true to Islam. The reference to festivals later is about shedding the blood of demons rather than burning effigies as tokens for Navratri. Both Ramzan and Diwali would happen together speaks of this being of gain to all – rather than an action against Muslims.

I see the poem in the context of the poet being a police officer and victim of molestation at the hands of the rioters she is so blood thirsty about. I think it is fairly common to want violators dead. To want them violated, devastated in turn. It is one pained cry we hear echo over and over. Worth remembering that this woman also had a gun at her waist and did not kill those demons, though she wishes she had. I most certainly don’t see this as a provocation for violence. It is her dilemma. They had the means, they had the fury, the rioters she saw as a betrayal of all – regardless of religion. I think this is a more likely interpretation, since the protests were Muslim.

I think religious organizations need to ask themselves why they identify with molesters rather than the religion that the police woman explicitly respects, when objecting to her. For an accused to be filing against her is a travesty of censorship that even sane Muslims ought to be refusing to allow.

The need of the hour is for women to speak up on sexual harassment. It is with great difficulty that this one is penning an enraged poem. This needs to be understood, that if we are encouraging women to speak up on their experiences of violation, they will be ugly. They will be angry and they cannot be expected to be fair.

This woman must not be silenced, if the wave of women speaking up and claiming power is to continue, particularly in the notoriously chauvinistic police force. The ability to allow a woman’s pain to stand in sight will help countless more women when police listen to them speak.

She has been forced to apologize for her poem and she repeats what is evident from her poem – that she did not intend to hurt religious feelings. It is high time people stood by her and for her right to speak up, as indeed we are and should be encouraging survivors of VAW to do so.

All said, this poem is not actually offensive, but there will be others that will be. Whoever imagines that after shrouds of silence, women starting to speak will be pretty has no idea of the seething frustrations waiting to explode. It will be raw and untactful and violent metaphors. We as humanity have to decide if we have the courage to hear it, or if we would rather latch on to some offense to some make province (religions are male creations) and silence women again to feel in control.

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About the Author

Vidyut is a blogger on issues of National interest. Staunch advocate of rights, learning and freedoms. @Vidyut

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