Dated 2019-04-23

Purveyors of Conflict Trauma

When you are displaced from your motherland, when you see blood and gore day in and day out, when your dear ones are slaughtered in front of you, when there is a perpetual suffocation in the air, when you live under the shadow of constant fear, the poet inside you has to come out and share it with the world.

In conflict situations, ordinary people have given vent to their anger, angst, and anguish through extraordinary poetry, their pent-up emotions bursting forth and bleeding on paper. Pablo Neruda poured forth his anguish in ‘I’m Explaining a Few things’, poignantly referring to his ‘good looking house’- the ‘house of flowers’, where ‘in every cranny geraniums burst ‘ but alas…

Dina Nath Nadim, the legendary Kashmiri poet wrote: “I will not sing today, I will not sing of roses and of bulbuls of irises and hyacinths. I will not sing those drunken and ravishing, dulcet and sleepy-eyed songs.”

There is still crouching and cowering, virulent warmongering, belligerence baring its fangs and girding its loins, stark despair peering from eyes and the iris has indeed lost its hue.

Both the Hindus and the Muslims of Kashmir have suffered in this attrition of nerves, in this sad state of affairs. People caught in this crossfire of hatred, bereft of the healing touch, have quietly turned to heal themselves through poetry.

I happen to be one of the administrators of an online poetry group, KoshurQalam , and here we have eighteen-year olds like Khan Towfeeq enchanting us with breathtakingly spell binding  poetry, replete with stunning imagery and metaphors of grieving, the sorrow of displacement, of leaving home and hearth .  Some are visceral poetic narratives that grip you by the throat, making you choke. Replete with words such as concertina wire, curfew, pellets, gunfire, rifle, wails, they punch you in the gut. Above the mayhem of teargas, pellets, guns and rifles rise these poetic pleas. And we clutch the hope to our hearts that poetry makes things happen.


Sunayna Kachroo, a Boston based poet and a film writer, published author of‘Waqt Se Pare – Beyond Time’, so heart-wrenchingly writes of her yearning for the home and hearth left behind.



Along the banks of Hudson, when the train inched on the rails,

I noticed the swing in the trees and vibrancy in the spring flowers.

It must be Sonth(Spring) in Kasheer too,  I thought to myself.



And this is how she winds it up: My heart is longing to go back…to Kashmir

Now we meet only in dreams…


“When we are in a battlefield or in a conflict zone (internal or external),” says Sunayna, “we are more receptive and more appreciative of the basic things in life.  It forces us to look inwards for introspection. I have found my expression through Poetry.”

In the poetry of Badee Uz  Zaman, a young poet from South Kashmir’s Pulwama, I have seen almost a palpable yearning for a return to the peaceful times of yore.



Very soon will end

 This fretful night of agony

 In the symphonic air of glee

 Will vanish,

 The unwanted aroma of fear

 Then certainly I will meet you again

 On the embellished floor of Amira Kadal

 And together we will smoke,

 Like those harmonious old days,

 Few packs of Capstan,

 Watching the water beneath us 

 Changing its colour 

 From crimson to blue again


“Poetry is the child of conflict, as far as I’m concerned,” says Badee, “So, a man living around agonizing shrieks of loss, mourning, corpses and funerals is bound to produce poetry.”

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PerveizAli , another young poet and educationist  brings alive the pain through stunningly simple verses.

You call it caring ….to cripple doves’ wings

 Innocent beings born in a zone of conflict


Voices scream, a silent scream

fallen on deaf ears


“The colour of conflict is evident in the walk and talk of every single inhabitant here, cutting across the contours of age and profession,” says Perveiz, “To write about how conflict has rotted us and paralyzed our social acumen, is a salve to the writer’s nerves to some extent and gives a feeling of voicing his angst.”
In all conflict poetry, there is a strong yearning for the golden past, and an intense desire for peace. In all these young poets, I have seen, like the desire of Agha Shahid Ali, to ‘let me cry out in that void, say it as I can.’

I have been endlessly awestruck by the powerful poetry of the teenage poet, Khan Towfeeq , a young  first year college student. Here are a few verses from his long poem Shab:

Last night,
When I came home from a war,
Maa was weeping again;
I don’t know why.

I wanted to talk to her,
But she had nailed the door shut:

She had bolted it with her cracked ribs,
And the sceptre of pure madness –

That she had conquered from
The land of winters.

Her sobs were slowly creeping out
Through the cobwebbed keyhole

And were climbing up the walls,
Like some sacred smoke,
Red and black,
Ready to burn their flesh.

A wisp of a faltering sob,
As it touched my skin,
Burned it instantly
To the bone;

No ashes
And no smoke whatsoever,
Just a crimson coloured abyss.

Badee Uz Zaman
Mushtaq Barq
Nazir Wani

There is still crouching and cowering, virulent warmongering, belligerence baring its fangs and girding its loins, stark despair peering from eyes and the iris has indeed lost its hue.

Both the Hindus and the Muslims of Kashmir have suffered in this attrition of nerves, in this sad state of affairs. People caught in this crossfire of hatred, bereft of the healing touch, have quietly turned to heal themselves through poetry.

Shabir Ahmad Mir, a young a poet from Pulwama, a vet  by profession, but a poet by heart, has always enchanted me by his wonderful poetry.

“Where to, shall we now row in Kashmir?

 No more does the Vyeth flow in Kashmir.


 See how we are smiling in sepia tones

Ah! It is just an old photo in Kashmir”

Shabir shares a remarkable observation: “A very defining and characteristic feature of any war/conflict is its absurdity. All that gore and mayhem, all that blood and death.”  Says Shabir, “Poetry for me, in a conflict, thus becomes a means to express this absurdity as well as a means to make some sense of this absurdity. Conflict poetry, if you come to think of it, is both a reaction as well as an outcome of this absurdity. Of course there is pain as well and anger too. When the terror and fright seeps into one’s psyche, you have to come up with a means to give vent to the helplessness and despair. Some do it on streets and some, like me, do it through words.”


Another poet- painter who paints with his pen is, Mushtaque Barq.
On roads boys play, for it is hartal
A head stone for wickets they raise
From some unknown grave nearby,
His grave like a headless
Man in the desert
Looking for his
Name, date

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“As the plight in the valley grows into capacity for producing conflict literature, most of the young minds with their matured annotations are banging the tables with their fists and palms hitting the very wood of the so called ‘forum’ enlisting their resentment and infuriation,” says Barq with a philosophical demeanour, “The pain may not necessarily develop a literary form, but the verses carry enough verve to challenge conventional pattern. This conscious versification may not be placed next to voluminous collection of any Bard, but the kind of pain these verses carry is grave enough to be discussed and debated.”

I am quoting a few lines from another educationist from Pulwama, WaniNazir’s  soul- stirring poem, A Letter to My Beloved:

(Written on Eid-ul-Adhha, 13 September 2016, the day when the whole valley of Kashmir was under curfew)

13 September 2016

My Jana



I know you have been longing

A full lunar year for this day of Eid;

Worry not, Jana!

The curfewed days shall not live long,

The deluge of our freedom-filled sentiments

Will one day sweep away the sandy manacles of oppression.

A golden dawn will crack from the Zaberwan,

And birds will sing the songs of freedom and peace;

We too will walk with our heads high

In the Mughal gardens and in the streets


“Being a poet at heart,” says Wani, “I feel my bosom heavy watching oppression and suppression being unleashed terribly on this conflict-ridden piece of land and its people. I drive out the ghost haunting my being to make aware the rest of the world of the suffocating lives we live.”


Waseem  Malla, a Junior Research Fellow and Ph. D. scholar at Indian Veterinary Research Institute. Malla is inspired by Fyodor Dostoevsky, Agha Shahid, Mirza Ghalib and Orhan Pamuk. His poem ‘The Lost Saffron’ is wreathing in pain.

Centuries ago-

The Sun shining above my head,

Borrowed its evening bridal suit,

— all Saffron in hue — rubicund,

From the fields of Pampore!


Years later,

When the Land baked with gunpowder,

Ceased to grow the red stamens,

My brothers spilled their Blood,

On every street, redder in hue,

To keep the Sun, Red & Raging…!


The seemingly never-ending conflict situation in Kashmir has sensitized the youth to the existing  scenario where  words like guns, rifles , pellets have crept into the everyday vocabulary .But the unflinching hope stands tall among these poets that maybe, one day , the eyes of the somnolent world will yank open from its Rip Van Winkle sleep. Maybe one day, their voices will fall into ears, no longer deaf. Maybe one day, they will no longer flounder in tears, sorrow, loss and longing. Maybe one day, there will be an end to mothers’ wails. Maybe one day, the strident notes of blatant hatred will taper away , to metamorphose into love notes.

And maybe one day, all these poets, echoing George Herbert’s desperate plea: “Sweet peace, where dost thou dwell?

Won’t get a curt rejoinder from the hollow wind,

No go seek elsewhere.”

Maybe one day, this might as well happen. And may be poetry will make it happen.

Perveiz Ahmed
Sunayna Kachroo
Waseem Malla
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