So much has been written about the recent incidents regarding Gurmehar Kaur, that we seem to have forgotten what the issue is in the first place. In this echo chamber of rage and outrage, between celebrity posts and political piggy-backing, the facts and real issues are forgotten. So let's remove the hysteria and emotion and remind ourselves what the issues here really are.
1) Gurmehar didn't suddenly leap into the spotlight last week because of what she said about war or Pakistan. She made that statement in April of 2016 and the statement came and went without causing any ripples. This whole issue started because of what she said last week when she protested against political violence in Delhi University.
She didn't attack the PM. She didn't attack the Government. She didn't attack the BJP. She didn't attack the country.
Yes she named the ABVB but I don't think anyone disagrees that in this specific instance it was the ABVP that was involved in violence.
I don't understand how a statement condemning the ABVP for a violent incident and saying she refuses to be scared of them makes her anti-national.
2) Criticising the ABVP violence doesn't mean that in this specific instance she was endorsing any other political party or their youth wings. Anyone who has studied in DU knows that none of the youth political parties are particularly clean. But if in this specific instance it was the ABVP that was responsible, why would she criticise the NSUI or anyone else?
3) I don't understand why normal people who are not ABVP members took offence at her protesting against them. We are a country where far too many people have neither the courage nor the interest to care about issues that affect society at large. I work with young people everyday and I am reminded of the Roman Circus with movies, celebrity gossip and shopping replacing gladiatorial combat while the issues that actually affect our lives are blissfully ignored.
In an environment like this we should all celebrate a 20 year old who girl cares enough to speak up against political violence, to say that she isn't scared of goondas masquerading as student leaders. What exactly is offensive here? I wish more people had her courage.
4) What is offensive is that after her initial post, she was inundated with abuse and threats of rape, murder and other forms of violence. As a society, should that not be a non-negotiable? That a 20 year old speaking up against political violence shouldn't face the kind of disgusting abuse and threats she did. Even if for some reason you think she said something wrong, or think she is anti-national (though I don't know why, look at point 1), can you really justify and support the threats of violence, rape and murder against her?
5) The issue only got politicised in a meaningful way when a central government minister attacked her for a statement that she had made in April of LAST YEAR about war, a statement that had NOTHING to do with the current issue. Again I don't understand why Kiren Rijiju attacked her. She didn't attack the Government or the BJP. Why did a Government spokesperson choose to enter the conversation? What exactly was he defending? Even if you assume was right to criticise her anti-war campaign from last year, how was it relevant to the current issue of political violence in DU? How did it reduce or diminish what she was saying right now? What is it about Gurmehar that angered Rijiju? That she condemned violence? That she said she wouldn't be scared of the ABVP? Does that mean he feels that the violence was justified? Or that students should be scared of the ABVP? Is that the official Government position?
6) When a government spokesperson chose to wade into the issue, why criticise just Gurmehar and not the ABVP members who threatened her, the people who abused her or, for that matter, the violence itself? BJP MP Pratap Simha tweeted comparing her to Dawood Ibrahim? Who exactly reminds us of Dawood? The frenzied mob threatening to rape and murder a young girl? Or a child standing up against violence?
When an incident like this happens, I expect all our leaders, regardless of political party, to reject and criticise the threats of violence, rape and murder that she faced. Failure to do so sends out the message that if you disagree with someone it's okay to threaten and intimidate that person. That's not how democracy works!
7) Why don't people realise that the issue here is not Virender Sehwag or Randeep Hooda or the BJP or Kiren Rijiju or Gurmehar's father or anti-nationalism? There are just 2 issues here and they are very simple:
(A) A young girl criticised political violence and said she won't be afraid of a youth political party that threatened violence. There is NOTHING wrong with that sentiment or statement and she deserves only applause for it.
(B) She was abused and threatened with extreme violence for making that statement until she had to withdraw from her protest and leave her home and city out of fear. There is NOTHING that makes such a response justifiable or acceptable in any way.
So strip away the media noise, the politics, the Government and the opposition, the labels of left and right and liberal. It comes down to this. A country where the young speak their mind, reject violence and refuse to be intimidated is a country to be proud of. A country where courage and a rejection of violence faces a torrent of abuse, threats and intimidation is a country to be ashamed of. We need to decide and create the kind of country we want to be.