Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

The Mad Old Man

March 8, 2018

collage made of up several photos of elderly man's face with a quote from poem

This poem by history PhD candidate Suvaid Yaseen was recently published by Raiot.in in response to recent events in Kashmir. 

The mad old man strays across the barbed wire
into his own orchard
and sifts through rotting fruit

A young woman washes her dress
in the stream
fragrant of her beloved’s blood

Children play cricket by an army camp
that once housed the village school
and pretend it’s recess

Memory is a forbidden territory
but there is always more —

On a day worse than memories
a bullet awaits
to release them from the agony of being
a haunted record of misery

Yet, the idea remains
the soul of an irreverent lunatic

It leaps over wires to blush apples red

It drowns into curves of water to make love
turns blood into the grain and the scent of saffron

It jumps high walls cluttered with empty rum bottles
breaks into a classroom that is now an ammunition store
and writes on the blackboard beside hanging self-loading-rifles —

Alif sey Azaadi!

The idea is irreverent
an everlasting curse of soul

of the mad old man
of the dead old man.

"Around 00:05 on February 19 2018, Indian armed forces shot dead Syed Habibullah after he allegedly “tried to enter the high security Air Force Station” in Central Kashmir’s Budgam district. The police spokesman said that the man, in his fifties, “appeared to be mentally challenged”—he was not wearing any footwear, had no winter clothing, and did not carry any identity card. Those who knew him told media-persons that “he used to roam from once place to another, not because he was mentally challenged but because he was distressed with extreme penury.” He was laid to rest in his native village of Soibug amidst pro-freedom slogans and clashes with the government forces.

The name Habibullah translates as ‘the beloved of God.’

According to the data collected by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition for Civil Society, Indian armed forces have killed at least 17 mentally disabled persons in the last fourteen years in Kashmir where “lack of accountability has allowed them to be trigger happy.”

Learn more in this Washington Post article.