(The following poem, calling for Hindu Muslim unity, was published in the 2007 edition of “Out of Line: Fiction, Poetry, Essays in Search of Peace and Justice”, published by Garden House Press).
“Put Down Your Gun” – A Call for Hindu Muslim Unity
The elders say there was a time when we were all one,
Hindus and Muslims basked in the same sun
of inequality, dishonor, defeat, and disgrace.
Their country was taken over by the dreaded awful face
of Britain, the enemy, the nation that ruled
over my people, your people, slaughtering them in pools
of their own blood, their guts, their honor, their shame.
Was this all just a lie, was it all just a game?
But the elders insist that we would not run,
from the pain, the torture, nor even the gun
which the Englishmen pointed into our face.
We stood by one another, to finish the race.
Stories exist of Muslims and Hindus fighting side by side,
shoulder to shoulder, accepting the tide
of bullets, of pistols, of rifles, of bombs,
in the name of Allah, in the name of Ram.
The elders confirm that this was all true.
There was nothing in the world that Britain could do.
Together, India would win, would conquer, would regain
her independence, her freedom, her beautiful name.
Hindus and Muslims fought hand in hand,
united together by their love for the land.
They were friends, they were, these two different groups,
they fought bravely, courageously against the same troops.
They fell in an ocean of tears, sweat and blood,
dying by the thousands, their bodies filled the mud.
Muslims were buried, Hindus were burned.
So much the elders remember, so much they have learned.
But what I don’t understand is how the elders could lie.
Why tell me the stories of men who would die
for their desh, their land, and their sacred home?
It was all just a lie, it was all just a poem.
Because today we are here and our people are free,
yet we are divided and full of misery.
Hindus and Muslims today are at war.
Allies we were once, yet not anymore.
We have pointed weapons at each other’s eyes.
We have forgotten the past, we speak only lies.
Why die in the millions fifty years ago
if all we do now is put on a show?
India and Pakistan, what will you gain?
There will be no victory in who will be slain.
Follow your hearts and listen to your mind:
By killing one another, you kill your own kind.
Hindus, open your hearts! Let go of your pain!
Do not let the deaths of your ancestors go by in vain.
Muslims, open your arms! Do away with your hate!
If we embrace each other now, it will not be too late.
To the people in the hills, high in Kashmir,
gripping your weapons, gripping your fear.
Remember the time once, when we were all one.
So what are you waiting for?
Put down your gun.