ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Listening to Frost and Tagore in the Age of Walls

Their poems speak both to Donald Trump’s drive to build tangible and intangible barriers, and Gurmehar Kaur’s campaign to demolish them.

Even before protests against Donald Trump’s ascendancy to the United States (US) presidency had died down, his proclamations and policies within the 10 days of taking office, in January, sent shock waves across the globe. Foremost among them were orders 13767, 13768 and 13769, all available online on federalregister.gov. The first declared his government’s intent to build a wall across the Mexican border; the second, a complementary order, aimed to crack down on illegal immigrants and to stop funding “sanctuary cities;” and the third, the most controversial, wanted to restrict the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries for 90 days, to suspend the US Refugee Admissions Program for 120 days and to ban the entry of refugees from Syria indefinitely, among other things. (Later, on 6 March, order 13780 reduced the number of countries under the travel ban from seven to six.) But more dangerous than the physical wall along the Mexican border is the intangible one that order 13769 envisages. Its stated aim is “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorists’ Entry into the US.” It gives immigration authorities a virtual free hand to engage in racial and religious profiling.

On the one hand, the order elicited widespread condemnation, including from US diplomats across the globe, 1,000 of whom signed a letter of protest, as reported by the New York Times. The order also evoked lawsuits, such as the case of the State of Washington v Trump, blocking the execution of many of its provisions, pending further hearing by the court. On the other hand, it resulted in an upsurge of walls. Officials arrested illegal immigrants, detained nationals from Muslim-majority countries at airports and refused entry to travellers, as widely reported in the US media. On 7 February, Muhammad Ali Jr, the son of the legendary Muhammad Ali, was among those detained, at Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport. He was grilled for nearly two hours before being let go, the Los Angeles Times reported. He
escaped lightly compared with Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was the victim of a hate crime in Kansas City, and a Sikh man in Seattle who was shot at and injured. Jewish graves have also been desecrated.

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Updated On : 25th May, 2017

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