Beaten to Death for Writing Poetry

No, it’s not a new film about frats-gone-wild; it’s real life.

At the risk of being called culturally insensitive, I’m going to say that I am sickened by caste bigotry in India. In a nation as populous as it is, it’s mind-boggling to even consider the number of crimes visited upon people who are guilty of nothing more than being born in the wrong class.

Oh, that and maybe having the unmitigated gall to write a poem to a upper-caste girl:

A 16-year-old Dalit boy died after he was thrashed in front of other students by an upper caste teacher in a rural higher secondary school of this Himachal district for writing a verse in appreciation of an upper caste girl.

Surjit Singh was beaten up on Tuesday by a teacher in the Nangal Kalan Government High school in public, said the Dalit sarpanch of the village Gyan Kaur. His two classmates said, “When the teacher came to know about the Surjit’s love poem, he caned him till he almost dropped dead.”

But he made it through the night. Happy ending, huh?

No:

That was not the end of his ordeal; he was again beaten up by the family members of the girl the next day, Wednesday. Surjit was later found semi-conscious and taken to the hospital but succumbed to injuries.

The hatred and violence inflicted on this child is bad enough. The fact that it was carried out in retaliation for composing the most profound expression of love is despicable.

Oh. One closing note:

Local leaders have sought an inquiry into the incident as the police appear to be siding with the upper caste girl’s family and the teacher.

13 Responses to “Beaten to Death for Writing Poetry”

  1. Jamie Says:

    At first I was just sunk by how sad it was, for the boy, what he must have thought about what was happening to him. I also wonder about the girl and if it changed or confirmed her own thoughts on ‘how things are done’.

    But now it’s giving way to disgust and incredulity that hatred on a sliding scale is still sanctioned in places in the world.

  2. William Haskins Says:

    it saddens me further that the vast majority of americans wouldn’t wipe their asses with a poem, and this child chose to pour out his heart in that form even though he had to have known, from lifelong indoctrination into that vicious system, that he was risking much.

  3. Jamie Says:

    Does poetry enjoy more communal status elsewhere in the world, do you know? I’m just wondering if, in Indian society, a love poem is a more common thing, less holy-shit-what-is-that-a-poem-?-! than it is here.

    Not that the boy didn’t understand at least a shade of his risk (how ridiculous and sickening) but I’m just curious as to poetry in other cultures in the present day.

  4. Sara Says:

    This is sad, disgusting, infuriating, and wrong. Right now, I want nothing more than to read those words, to know the poetry of a boy who died to write it.

    Jamie, I know that there is a great tradition of poetry in India, but I don’t have much knowledge on it. I’ve read a lot of spiritually based poems translated from Sanskrit, so it’s been around for a long while…

    Saras last blog post..Hold it in, hold it in!

  5. Laurie Ashton Says:

    I talked to my Sri Lankan husband about this. A couple of points.

    Poetry. Yes, it’s big here, or at least, it used to be. Poets were revered as national figures. There were also poetry competitions – Instant Poetry – where one person makes up a poem on the spot, then the next person has to respond to that poem in their poem, and so on. Poetry was huge up until 20 or 30 years ago with a very long and rich tradition of poetry all over the region, but in Sri Lanka at least, since television is here now and other forms of entertainment are taking over, it’s dying.

    But it’s not because of poetry itself that the boy was beaten. It’s because he dared to reach out to someone in a higher caste than him, regardless of how he reached out. That sort of thing is just not done here. In Sri Lanka, it’s status, not caste, but it’s really the same thing, and everyone has their status and those higher up do not associate with those lower down. Everyone is conscious of status. Everyone. (Except us poor stupid foreigners, that is. :) )

    Laurie Ashtons last blog post..Do you read short fiction?

  6. William Haskins Says:

    >>”But it’s not because of poetry itself that the boy was beaten. It’s because he dared to reach out to someone in a higher caste than him, regardless of how he reached out.”

    you’re missing the connection. the poem represents a fundamental expression of emotion. it was a risk and a rebellion and an act of intellectual and emotional courage, and that is precisely why it was met with such violent retribution.

    >>”That sort of thing is just not done here. In Sri Lanka, it’s status, not caste, but it’s really the same thing, and everyone has their status and those higher up do not associate with those lower down. Everyone is conscious of status. Everyone.”

    status divisions (whether based on caste or not) which are enforced by violence and human rights injustices are a stain on humanity and deserve to be condemned, ridiculed and stamped out of existence.

    to even unconsciously justify them by saying that “everyone is conscious of it” or any similar implication that it’s “just the way things are done” is an act of cowardice and the most craven form of moral equivalence.

  7. Jamie Says:

    I didn’t mean to come across as asking if poetry is illegal or dangerous in India. That question was a sidetrack to the issue. I was curious if poetry is currently a more comfortable means of expression in that part of the world than it is here. But, as I see it, the boy was certainly beaten, ultimately to death, for writing a poem, since the ‘why’ he shouldn’t have written the poem is so immoral as to not be a reason at all.

    I’m sure there are people beaten to death for dialing a noble number or crooning under the improper window. And they are equally horrible. The fact that this boy used a poem made his story land here on AuthorScoop.

    That he surely knew better than to reach beyond his station is all the sadder and I think does give nuance to his having used the outlet of art. I think sometimes art makes us braver than perhaps we’d be without it. Sometimes that ignites progress and sometimes it just results in broken bodies.

  8. Laurie Ashton Says:

    You know, Haskins, I wasn’t missing the point at all. I was explaining it in context. And me saying that that’s the way it is here is not an act of cowardice on my part. Did you read me in any way justifying what anyone did? No. I was only putting it into some kind of context so there could be better understanding of what happened rather than “a boy was beaten to death for his poetry.”

    Don’t ascribe motives to me when you don’t have a clue.

    And with that, I’m done with this conversation.

    Laurie Ashtons last blog post..Do you read short fiction?

  9. Jamie Mason Says:

    I think part of the problem is that the context needs less to be explained, than to be torched by the heat of outrage.

  10. William Haskins Says:

    well laurie,

    to transpose the tenor of your comment to its shameful analogue in american history, the jim crow era, might illuminate my point.

    had it been a black child lynched for writing a poem to a white girl circa 1950, there can be little doubt that a comment (referring to a black child reaching across racial lines) like “that sort of thing is just not done here” would be the epitome of implicit acceptance, if not justification, of a cruel and unjust system, in my view.

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