Gurmehar’s peace campaign and hate mongers

Views from New Delhi

Akmal Hanan

GURMEHAR Kaur, the twenty-year-old girl from Delhi University, created a stir after she took on ABVP on social media for disrupting a seminar at Delhi University. Violence erupted at Rajmas College located in North Campus of DU in New Delhi on February 22 as ABVP members and leftist student body AISA clashed over a seminar. The seminar was organized by College Literature Society where JNU student Umar Khalid was scheduled to speak. Umar Khalid has been named in a sedition case last year along with another leftist student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, both of whom are now out on a bail. The invitation to Umar Khalid to speak in the seminar had been reportedly cancelled after ABVP had objected to it, but ABVP had nonetheless gone ahead with their protest to disrupt the seminar. Later, Gurmehar Kaur, a first-year student of English honors at Lady Shri Ram College for Women, who is now in the center of the storm, posted her image with a placard on Facebook, which reads, “I am a student from Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me, #StudentsAgainstABVP”.
Gurmehar Kour’s another four-minute video advocating peace between India and Pakistan first posted in April last year also went viral on social media during the course of time. The fact that Gurmehar Kaur is the daughter of late Indian Army captain Mandeep Singh who died during Kargil war made the proceeding events very significant.
These posts went viral on social media inciting reactions from common people, sports personalities, actors and the politicians alike.
In her video post #ProfileForPeace campaign launched last April, Kour silently displays placard advocating peace between India and Pakistan. One of the placards reads, “If there was no war between us, my father would still be here.” In the video, Gurmehar questions the acuity of leadership of both countries, stating: “We cannot dream of becoming a first world country with third world leadership.” Sitting on a chair behind the table she silently picks up the 30 placards from it that read: “I have more memories of how it feels to not have a father.” “I also remember how much I used to hate Pakistan and Pakistanis because they killed my dad.” “At 6, I tried to stab a woman in a Burkha – because of some strange reason I thought she was responsible for my father’s death.” Gurmehar goes on to say her mother made her understand “it was not Pakistan, but the war that killed her dad”. The placards go on to say, “Today, I’m a soldier just like my dad…I fight for peace between India and Pakistan.” Towards the end of the video placards they read, “Governments of both countries should stop pretending and solve the problem.” “We cannot dream of becoming a first world country with third world leadership”. “There’s enough state-sponsored terrorism, enough state sponsored spies, enough state sponsored hatred. Enough is enough”.
It is unfortunate, that her simple message for peace is being construed as “anti-national” sentiments by her own countrymen (read woman as well). A youth whose father has been consumed by war is trying to spread the message of peace but in turn is being threatened with violence even “rape”.
This only leads to one conclusion – how the constituency of peace is shrinking in India. The part of the video which is being attacked the most is “‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him”. And this simple peace message by a twenty-year-old is already turning political, with many politicians joining the course while mocking the youth. Indian Union Minister Kiren Rijiju tweeted, Kaur’s mind was being “polluted” by leftists. Former India star cricketer Virender Sehwag, tweeted: “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did” in response to Kaur’s post. His tweet was applauded by actor Randeep Hooda.
The hate and violent messages on Kour’s Facebbook page by a large margin outnumbers the supportive messages. And some post from opposition leaders like Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari hitting out at Rijiju and praising Kaur for raising her voice against intolerance may not go in her favor too. This will in turn make it more political and attract more hate towards her. A tweet from Congress vice-president’s office reads: “Against the tyranny of fear we stand with our students. For every voice raised in anger, intolerance and ignorance there will be a Gurmehar Kaur”.
Many other senior politicians have already joined the course and locked horns over the simple peace message. Gulmehar has already withdrawn herself from the public discourse, honestly admitting that hate messages have crossed the limit that she could withstand. She in her last post on the issue on her Facebook page wrote: “I’m withdrawing from the campaign. Congratulations everyone. I said what I had to say. I have been through a lot and this is all that my 20 year old self could take. This campaign was never about me but students. Please go in huge numbers for the March. Best of luck. To anyone questioning my courage and bravery I have shown enough. One thing is for sure that we will think twice before resorting to threats and violence and this is all that this was about. I request to be left alone.”
The girl deserves respect and salutation for standing up for peace despite losing her father early in her childhood, in war. What wrong did she utter, if she pitched for resolution of issues between the two countries? The fact is any peace overtures and resolution of conflicts between the two countries threatens the vote bank constituencies of politicians in both the countries. Least we can do to is stand with Gulmehar and pray good sense prevails and hate mongers realize that the path they tread can be catastrophic for everyone, including them. All is not lost till we have brave young people like Gulmehar taking a stand for the resolutions of the conflicts and for peace. And with the similar video posted by a Pakistani youth, Fayaz Khan, we still have hope. Fayaz through his placards while calling the Gulmehar his sister has reciprocated the peace message. This will surely work, if the politicians at the helm of affairs realize thye need to resolve the conflicts between the two countries, which would also lead to resolving the Kashmir dispute.

—Courtesy: Rising Kashmir
[Akmal Hanan, akmalhanan07@gmail.com]

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