Kilos of grain leave Indian fields onto British ships
Every bit of wheat is accounted for down to the very last bushel
The blisters on our hands reach out for their portion
Imperial officials stutter through their broken urdu
There’s nothing left
Our hands harvested the crops
Our sweat was the fertilizer that gave them life
This was not our famine
Two million dead
If there was no food
Where did it all go?
Winston Churchill sips his tea
We must feed the soldiers he said
Well of course we must assist in the war effort we respond
What are we fighting for?
Hamaray watan pe hamla nahi hai
Our country is not under attack
Toh pir hum kyun lade?
Then why should we fight?
You are British said Churchill
Fight for your King
When you tore us apart and dissected our culture and traditions
Called us savages and uncivilized
we were not British
When your establishments said “Indians and dogs not allowed”
We were not British
When you could not even spare grain to feed our children
We were not British
Toh hum angrez kahan se hoi?
So what makes us British?
Two and half million Indians died on the battlefields of Europe
Uprooted and transplanted, brown men shipped off to fight for white men
Who are we fighting we asked
We are fighting Hitler said Churchill
Who is Hitler we asked
But what do we know of tyrants we are but servants of His Majesty
Two and a half million rifles fired for someone else’s freedom
When do we get our freedom we asked
Soon said Churchill
Just win this war for me
Is it not enough that we left our limbs behind in North Africa, chasing Rommel through the deserts where the sands swallowed our bodies and drank the blood we spilled for you?
In those sands we marched as the winds blew our footprints away as if we were never there
Lost to the scales of time here so far from our mothers, fighting where so many armies have fought for before
As if the Sahara does not remember that you have sent brown men to their deaths before
How many of us have become shaheed in this land of chaos, caravans, and conquest
These sands are unfamiliar to us and still we whispered the names of our Gods to it as we fell
Is it not enough that in the jungles of Burma we fought imperialism for imperialism
One island nation for another
We liberated Italy for you
Tore down every symbol of fascism and oppression
Defeated an empire only to return to a different empire
We helped liberate Europe
But who liberates us?
Like the motherland she is she has given her sons to fight for your freedom and yet
We remain occupied
Jang hum lade aur ghulam bhi hum bane?
We fight for you and still we are slaves?
We won your war now we are free
Not quite said Churchill
There’s another war to be fought
Who are we fighting now we asked
Churchill takes another sip of his tea
About the Writer: Jazzib Akhtar is a Houston-based Pakistani-American writer and poet, he is a senior at the University of Houston majoring in Political Science and National Security Studies. He is also an organizer and artist who uses his work to find intersections between art and structural inequity. Apart from being the co-founder of UH’s first poetry slam team and spoken word community, when he is not working on his craft he can be found hitting game-winners at the rec.