Unnao: Two Dalit Girls Found Dead in Field, Third Critical

The Wire , February 18, 2021

Dalit Girl’s Body Found Hanging From Tree In UP, FIR Filed Against 3 For Rape

Outlook India , January 18, 2021

15-year-old Dalit girl’s dead body found in Uttar Pradesh field, kin suspect murder

The Hindustan Times , October 3, 2020

After Hathras: 22-year-old Dalit woman raped, killed in Uttar Pradesh

The Indian Express , October 1, 2020

Uttar Pradesh Dalit girl, victim of brutal gang rape, dies in Delhi hospital

The Hindu , September 29, 2020

Uttar Pradesh: Teenage Dalit girl raped, body found hanging from tree

Firstpost , February 19, 2015

Another minor found hanging from a tree in Uttar Pradesh, family alleges rape and murder

DNA , January 12, 2014

Listen to Sudhanva Deshpande recite the poem

The continuing and appalling atrocities against young Dalit women in Uttar Pradesh inspired this poem
PHOTO • Antara Raman

Sunflower fields

Perhaps this is no place for them to grow
Perhaps this is no time for them to bloom
Perhaps this is no season for them to smile
the rain is too harsh around.
Perhaps there is no sunshine to gather
Perhaps, no space to breathe
We know, there is no reason to doubt.
We know that it is true.

We know they will be pecked and eaten
plucked and crushed and slaughtered
We know when the flowers are brown
and ready to be harvested
and how the tender and young taste
when they are devoured fresh
One by one they all must burn
or get butchered
Each just waits her turn.

Perhaps the night is too cruel to love
and the wind too harsh to care
Perhaps the soil’s too soft to stand
the weight of tall flowers with spines
But then how dare they grow
in such astounding numbers
these wild sunflower fields?

Fields of untouchable beauty
as far as eyes can see
Bright-lit flames of green and gold
kick their little feet and laugh –
the giggles of girls who fly
the giggles of girls who dance
and lift their heads so high up
and stand on their two little feet.
In tiny fists they hold
a fiery orange glow.

It is not just the scorching ash
from the makeshift pyre in the distance,
there are sunflower fields in my womb
that make my eyes water and burn.

Audio: Sudhanva Deshpande is an actor and director with Jana Natya Manch, and an editor with LeftWord Books.

Pratishtha Pandya

Pratishtha Pandya is a Senior Editor at PARI where she leads PARI's creative writing section. She is also a member of the PARIBhasha team and translates and edits stories in Gujarati. Pratishtha is a published poet working in Gujarati and English.

Other stories by Pratishtha Pandya
Illustration : Antara Raman

Antara Raman is an illustrator and website designer with an interest in social processes and mythological imagery. A graduate of the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bengaluru, she believes that the world of storytelling and illustration are symbiotic.

Other stories by Antara Raman