What is that stench that is choking us?
It is everywhere and nowhere.
It is inside us and outside us.
It stinks like a decaying rotting corpse.
Something died inside us.
Something died outside us.
After we raped Bilkis and smashed her infant child to death.
After we raped her mother and her sisters.
After we chopped the heads of her kinsmen.
Something died and began to rot in us.
Slowly, quietly, relentlessly something was rotting inside us.
Something was rotting outside us.
We smelt it in the words of the politicians.
We smelt in the blind unseeing eyes of the leaders whom we elected.
We smelt it in the calloused skin of our indifference.
We smelt it in the oozing pus of our hate.
We smelt it in the sweaty closeness of our friendships.
We smelt it in the horror of our violent devotions.
We smelt it in the blood that soaked the ruins of mosques and temples.
Those who tore the foetus from the mother’s womb,
Those who raped a mother before her daughters,
Those who gave the chase to men who had neighboured them
and cut their heads as if in sport.
They are among us and with us.
They surround us and speak to us.
They whisper their secrets to us and laugh with us.
They are us and we are them,
As we claim our kinship with them
In the name of a religion, a nation, a tradition, a history.
I cannot breathe any more
The stench has become unbearable.
On the faces of those I have chosen to rule me
I see the smile of a dead foetus.
In their words I hear the screams of a woman being mutilated.
In their breath I smell the stench of a rotting corpse
That is both outside me and inside me.