The partisan activism and misplaced idealism of Gurmehar Kaur

Over the past few days, a young woman named Gurmehar Kaur has become a media celebrity and her views have become important for the nation. So much so, that right now if you disagree with her, you will be branded a rapist.

However, I’m taking this risk and writing this article to disagree with her. I can’t surrender my freedom of speech to such bullies. I can not live under the fear of branded a rapist just because I hold a different view.

For those who might not be aware, all this started with media promoting her as “Kargil martyr’s daughter”, in all probability to give validation to her arguments.

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Her initial argument was rather political. She claimed that she stood for free speech (no disagreement there), but blamed only ABVP for being against it. Anyone with basic knowledge of politics, or even college politics, will know that this was blatantly partisan.

Leftist students are the most intolerant bunch on campuses. From bloody violence in West Bengal and Kerala, to intolerant behavior at JNU right in Delhi, there is no example of intolerance that student groups like SFI or AISA have not displayed. If leftists student bodies are for peace and free speech, ISIS is for human rights and democracy.

Yet, for some reason, Gurmehar decided to blame only ABVP and paint them as the only party being against free speech. It was in line with the leftist propaganda where they butcher people and yet claim to be victims. Left-leaning media tried to turn that into a gospel truth by tagging her as “Martyr’s daughter” – basically it was an appeal to emotion because facts and arguments were not strong enough.

To give further credence to this partisan propaganda, left-leaning media tried to hide the violence by leftists and things became heated. Gurmehar became central to all this as more and more people joined the debate.

In the meantime, out of somewhere, a picture of her holding a placard appeared. “Pakistan did not kill my dad, War killed him” read the placard.

In isolation, that statement sounds stupid, and thus people started making memes on social media, especially on Twitter, where anything and everything is turned into a joke. Funny memes like “Bhai did not kill black buck, bullet killed it” and all were being posted.

Hell break loose when cricketer Virender Sehwag too posted a similar meme. And that was it. It was termed as “bullying” Gurmehar. Gurmehar too claimed she was being bullied, claimed even to have received rape threats, and then announced that she was “withdrawing” from the campaign.

What started as an appeal to emotion ended with appeal to emotion. “Oh look, poor girl is being threatened with rape” became the central point of discussion. This became another excuse to validate Gurmehar’s thoughts and arguments.

And this is why I am writing this. Because these appeals to emotion should not be allowed to overrun appeals to reason. Rational thoughts and arguments should be the only tool to validate someone’s statements, not some emotional story.

Since her position of blaming only the ABVP for curbing free speech doesn’t even merit discussion as it’s blatantly partisan and a lie, I will focus only on the message on the placard.

To be fair to her, that one line about “Pakistan did not kill my dad” was taken out of context and overplayed. It was part of a larger video message, which in entirely reads as follows:

Gurmehar Kaur's video message
The full video message by Gurmehar Kaur

Sounds so great, no? Again, it is appeal to emotion. Let us turn to reason and analyse it point by point. Here are the broad points:

    • I am appealing for peace to both nations: The biggest problem with this statement is the false equivalence of India and Pakistan, as if both the nations are equally guilty of tensions between them. 1948, 1965, 1971, or Kargil of 1999 – every time, it was a war initiated by Pakistan, and we had to defend our borders and interests. Every sovereign country is entitled to protect its interests. Is she saying that in the interest of peace, we must drop weapons and meekly surrender to such attacks? If someone should really be appealed to give peace a chance, it is Pakistan and Pakistan only. By the way, note that while she chooses to blame only ABVP for campus violence, she indirectly blames both India with Pakistan for violence on borders. If her pacifist idealism thinks both parties are guilty, why did she not appeal to both ABVP and Leftists for peace on campus? She is willing to give Pakistan the benefit of doubt but not ABVP?
    • Germany and Britain can be friends after World War II: This is so simplistic and naive that only a school going kid should come up with it. Gurmehar is an adult and one expects better. Consider this: Britain colonised and brutalised Indians for 200 years. Still we are friends with Britain today. So we aren’t exactly a hostile country that is stuck on history. Then why this strained relationship with Pakistan? It stems from the fact that Pakistan was created out of hatred and mistrust. Pakistan’s textbooks teach its citizens that Hindus are enemies of Islam and Hindus and Muslims can’t co-exist. It is the two-nation theory, which is alive and kicking in minds of Pakistanis and Kashmiri separatists, whom she finds a common cause with. What she did was yet another example of false equivalence. India is not refusing to be friends. Even BJP governments have taken peace efforts, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee and now Narendra Modi visiting Pakistan with an olive branch. Who is refusing the friendship? Those who want Bharat ke tudke, those who want Azaadi.
    • Majority of regular Indians and Pakistanis want peace and not war: One of the most clichéd propaganda being played since time immemorial by the “Aman ki Asha” brigade. Remember, however dysfunctional it is, Pakistan is still a democracy. What the government does represent the collective will of the people. And remember again, the attacks on India are state sponsored by Pakistan government. Let there be a political party in Pakistan which promises peace with India. Let Pakistani people vote it to power and we will believe that common people of Pakistan want peace. Till then, their government represents the people and it is waging a war against India. And as I said earlier, majority of regular Pakistanis grew up reading textbooks that paint every Indian, especially every Hindu, as an enemy with whom peace is not possible. Does Gurmehar think that majority of Pakistanis don’t believe in what they grew up reading in schools and Madarsas? Let us not fool ourselves!
    • Enough of state sponsored terrorism, enough of state sponsored spies: I hope she is appealing to Pakistan here. State sponsored terrorism is an official stance of Pakistan. Death through thousand cuts. As far as spies are concerned, well, if a nation is waging a guerrilla war against you, you are not supposed to sit and wait for their next attack. You need to gather intelligence.
    • Talk to each other, and get the job done: That’s what we have been doing! It is tiring actually. People want action, not talks anymore. Still, I respect her strong belief in “talks”. But strangely this belief goes for a toss when it comes to talking to fellow Indians. If she believes in talks so much, why did she not start a campaign to talk to ABVP? Why paint them as villains? She has all the patience to talk to a country that attacked India and due to which her father died, but she can’t talk to ABVP?  ABVP filed a police complaint and demanded arrest of those who allegedly issued rape threats to her, but I did not even see Ms. Kaur condemning the incident where a woman member of ABVP was molested by the leftist goons. At least she could talk to that young woman? Yet again, she can give Pakistan a chance, but not ABVP!

There is so much more I want to say. About her association with Aam Aadmi Party and her controversial posts, some of which are covered in this article. But I don’t want to make it about her, as that’s what the leftists and media want. They want to keep focus on her, and then base the entire debate on appeal to emotions.

But when it comes to logic and reason, her activism as well as her pacifism sounds hollow at best and pernicious at worst. We can not and should not ever accept this false equivalence of India and Pakistan. That’s a defeatist and dangerous approach to solving issues between the two countries.

The left ecosystem has succeeded in forcing people like Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda to go into silence and now they are trying to insult and intimidate wrestlers from Haryana. Ironically, they claim they are for free speech, when all they are doing is silencing views that dare to go against Gurmehar Kaur.

In such a scenario, it becomes even more important that we speak up. We should not be forced to retreat and we should fearlessly tell the truth – that Gurmehar is even more hollow icon than Kanhaiya.

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