Solidarity with Palestine from Kashmir: Kashmiri, Hindi, and Urdu translations of Refaat Alareer’s ‘If I Must Die’

Introduction by Ather Zia
Kashmiri translations by Idrisa Pandit & Ather Zia 
Hindi transation by Richa Nagar & Urdu translation by Abdul Aijaz

Glued to the small phone screen watching the genocide unfold in Gaza, Refaat Alareer’s interview crossed my feed. It was a heart-wrenching interview. A tearful Refaat was trying to reason with the world, defending his people’s struggles, and predicting his killing most accurately. His words were punctuated by bombs falling around him, and he would pause ever so slightly.

Refaat’s haunting interview was followed by his poem If I Must Die[1] going viral. You could feel the throbbing heart of the poem portending the poet’s killing so clearly like it was being telecast on a huge screen. Refaat’s poem captured the death sentence that genocide had handed Palestinians, but importantly he was making sure that hope was not killed. The poem carries a father’s burden. Himself a father of six children, Refaat creates a vision to console the bereaved children of Gaza. He entrusts the task to “you” (the reader) who will make “his” (Refaat’s) kite, big and white, ensuring that the angel of love does not fail to descend upon Palestine and its children’s searching eyes.

I have never paid attention to kites, except in childhood when I would miserably fail in flying them. In If I Must Die Refaat’s invocation of building a huge white kite, that flies close to heaven and descends upon the wounded and weary Palestinians, children, and adults is a vision beyond the genocide. It is a reminder that the angel of love will arrive and all of us must do our part, however little. As Cornel West has so aptly said, “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public,” Refaat’s poem manifests his love that makes arrangements beyond his physical departure. Ever the teacher, he instructs how love can arrive in the best way he knows—through his words. In the interview, Refaat said and I paraphrase: ‘If a soldier enters my house, the only toughest thing I have is an Expo marker; and if I need to, I will throw it at them.’ He is a writer and he will fight like one. From Refaat’s arsenal, If I Must Die is a written version of that expo marker. The poem’s translation into so many languages overnight is a testament to how well he threw his marker and how well his message is traveling!

A conundrum one cannot escape is how one can mourn a poet without celebrating their words. And it is a predicament that comes with the deliberate blessings of the poet who knows you cannot remember them without revisiting their words. Kashmiris share a deep love for the Palestinian people and their struggle. Kashmir and Palestine are two struggles that started after classic colonialism ended and neocolonialism took root. As I say elsewhere, Kashmiris have an affective solidarity with Palestine, and ‘their wounds are our wounds’. It was almost reflexive to render Refaat’s poem in Kashmiri. It is not a coincidence that two Kashmiris have offered two translations of the same on these pages of AGITATE! I am sure there are many others, hidden and unshared. 

Unfortunately, Kashmiris at this moment are silenced. In previous years Kashmir was most likely the only place where despite the military occupation people demonstrated passionately on the streets in favor of Palestine. They were often met with disproportionate violence by the Indian forces. A recent headline aptly summed up the situation: “Kashmir’s anger over Gaza simmers as India keeps lid on protests.” The Indian regime even suspended prayers in Kashmir’s oldest masjid fearing that protests for Palestine might become a vehicle of demonstrations against Indian rule. The surveillance on Palestinian solidarity is so intense that Friday sermons are barred from mentioning Palestine. People are allowed to pray for Palestine but only in Arabic and not in the local Kashmiri language. What might be the dangerous implications of praying in a people’s language? Understanding. Deeper connection. Prayers more fervent and more passionate for justice and freedom for the occupied people. Prayers that might become reflections. 

We hope these Kashmiri translations will nurture Refaat’s message in the bosom of the Kashmiri language. They are a contribution to the accouterments that solidarities are gathering to ensure Refaat’s kite is in the making. That the angel of love will return soon.

If I must die

If I must die,
you must live
to tell my story
to sell my things
to buy a piece of cloth
and some strings,
(make it white with a long tail)
so that a child, somewhere in Gaza
while looking heaven in the eye
awaiting his dad who left in a blaze—
and bid no one farewell
not even to his flesh
not even to himself—
sees the kite, my kite you made, flying up
and thinks for a moment an angel is there
bringing back love
If I must die
let it bring hope
let it be a tale

Refaat Alareer

Agar mye marun p’yow

Poet: Refaat Alareer
Kashmiri Translation/Transliteration: Ather Zia

Reading of the Kashmiri translation of ‘If I must die’ by Ather Zia

Agar my’e mar’uun p’yow
T’che roz’zi zin’deh

M’ein daleel wan’neh khaa’terr
Akh kapar zeth beyi
Kenh panni daweh hen’neh khaa’terr
Zyeeth la’ttchi daar safed ran’geh
gan’teh b’year banaw’ne kha’terr

Yeli gaza’huk masoom bache
Pannis maelis pyaran pyaraan
Arshas atchen manz atch traweh
Tas maelis yuss nareh b’ezz goas
Kansi hye’kun ne alwida karith
Na pa’nnis maa’zzas
Na pa’nnis paa’nas

Su bache wet’che ye gan’teh b’year
Tha’deh wuu’daan asmaanas manz
Myein ganta byear – yuss tche banawith
Te akiss tchehiss baa’ces
Loluk farishteh chu wapas pa’kaan

Agar m’ye ma’run p’yow
Wom’aid gatch’na roz’iin baki
Saen daleel gatch’na roziin baki

Agar bi mudus

Poet: Refaat Alareer
Kashmiri Translation/Transliteration:
Idrisa Pandit

Reading of the Kashmiri translation of ‘If I must die’ by Idrisa Pandit

Agar bi mudus
Tsche roz zi zinde, mein dastan vanene bapath
mein cheez kenene bapath
Akh kapre zet anene bapeth
beyi kehn gand
safeed kapur yeth zeeth le’t ase
taki yeli kahn shur gazas manz kuni te jaye
jantas saeth ach lage
pyaran tas malis yus
nare tschangen manz drav
salame rostei panenes mazas
panenes panas te
wiche ye gante bear yuse tsche banaveth myani khatre
widan asmanas manz
soche ratche khanje Akh firishte chu yeti
anan mahabatas wapas
agar bi mudus moun mout banen umaid
banen akh dastan

गर मुझे मरना पड़े

Poet: Refaat Alareer
Hindi Translation: Richa Nagar

गर मुझे मरना पड़े,
तुम्हें जीना होगा
मेरी कहानी सुनाने के लिये
मेरा असबाब बेचकर
कपड़े का एक टुकड़ा ख़रीदने के लिये
साथ ही थोड़ी डोर भी
(जो सफ़ेद हो, लंबी पूंछ वाली)
ताकि ग़ज़ा में कोई बच्चा कहीं
आस्मां की आंख से आंख मिलाकर
राह देखता हो अपने अब्बा की
जो शोला सा रुख़सत हुआ हो—
और अलविदा भी न कह सका हो किसी को
ना ही अपने ख़ून को
यहां तक कि ख़ुद को भी नहीं—
जब वो देखे तुम्हारे हाथों से बनी मेरी पतंग
दूर गहरे आसमान में ऊपर उड़ती बुलंद
उसे पल भर को लगे
मानो कोई फ़रिश्ता है
मोहब्बतें वापस लाता…
गर मुझे मरना पड़े
तो मेरी मौत उम्मीद बन कर आए
एक दास्तान बन जाए

گر مجھے مرنا پڑے

Poet: Refaat Alareer
Urdu Translation: Abdul Aijaz

گر مجھے مرنا پڑے
تو تمہیں جینا ہو گا
میری کہانی سنانے کے لئے
میرا ترکہ بیچ کر
کپڑے کا ایک ٹکڑا خریدنےکے لئے
اور چند ڈوریاں
(جس کا رنگ سفید اور ایک لمبی پونچھ ہو)
تا کہ غزہ میں کہیں کوئی بچہ
جب آسماں کی آنکھوں میں آنکھیں ڈالے
اپنے باپ کا منتظر ہو جو شعلہ سا رخصت ہوا تھا
کسی کو الوداع کہے بغیر
اپنے لخت کو
نہ ہی اپنے آپ کو۔۔۔
تمہاری بنائی، میری پتنگ کو اوپر اُڑتا دیکھے
تو ایک لمحے کو اس پہ فرشتے کا گماں ہو
جو محبتیں واپس لاتا ہو
اگر میرا مرنا ٹھہر جاۓ
تو اس سے امید کشیدنا
ایک کہانی تراشنا

Suggested citation:

Alareer, R., A. Zia, I. Pandit, R. Nagar, & A. Aijaz. 2024. “Solidarity with Palestine from Kashmir: Kashmiri, Hindi, and Urdu translations of Refaat Alareer’s ‘If I Must Die’.” In Eds. Richa Nagar, Abdul Aijaz, and Nithya Rajan, Special Volume on “Ecologies of Violence and Haunting: Listening to Chup,” AGITATE! 5:

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