On April 28th, 2016, a video of Gurmehar Kaur, the daughter of a Kargil martyr, went viral. In this video, she appealed the Governments of India and Pakistan to find ways to make peace. This video has been watched by over 1.5 million people on the Facebook page it was initially posted on and tens of thousands of times on other platforms such as Youtube. In a 4 and a half minute video, she held 36 posters, one after another, with handwritten messages on them where in she narrated her story of how she lost her father at the age of 2, how she used to hate Pakistan, Pakistanis and Muslims, and how she overcame her hate. The 13th poster out of the 36 posters read “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him”. After Gurmehar Kaur recently spoke out against the attack on students by ABVP at Ramjas College, Delhi, this 13th poster has become a bone of contention for many.
Ever since Gurmehar spoke out against ABVP, she has been trolled incessantly and has been at the end of endless abuse, rape threats and more. She was even accused of misusing her father’s martyrdom for political ends. As if that weren’t enough, a couple of celebs got into the act last evening. It started with Virendra Sehwag posing with the following poster.
The poster read, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bad did.” The poster was meant to mock Gurmehar’s 13th poster which read “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him”. Soon enough, Randeep Hooda joined the action when he tweeted a poster comparing the above two images.
Around the same time, BJP MP Pratap Simha tweeted the following comparison between Gurmehar and Dawood Ibrahim.
These tweets kicked off a new round of vicious trolling and abuse with many Modi supporters whom the PM himself follows on Twitter getting into the act. Unfortunately, Sehwag, Hooda and the trolls completely overlooked the context in which she held up that 13th poster. In fact, the words in that 13th poster weren’t even hers, they were the words of a slain army officer’s wife, they were the words of a mother trying to tell her angry-conflicted daughter that it is the war that killed her husband, and not Pakistan. The little girl had just tried to attack a burqa-clad woman thinking that it was the woman who was responsible for her father’s death and the mother was trying to hold her daughter back and trying to calm her down. Even though the nuance of such a statement could be hard for many to understand, especially for those who form their world-view based on WhatsApp forwards, what the mother was probably trying to express is that it is the war and the politics of wars that consumes people.
In fact, Sehwag, Hooda and the troll gang fixated on exactly 9 words out of Gurmehar Kaur’s 347-word message of peace. I have transcribed the video and the 347 word message is as follows:
The original video can be seen below:
Dear GurMehar Kaur,
It was an honour to assist you in telling your truth, your story and your point of view to the world.
What you have done is truly brave. I hope your message is seen by the world and it helps us become a better race.
much respect and love,
– Ram Subramanian
Posted by Voice Of Ram on Thursday, April 28, 2016
After reading the above text and watching the above video, one can easily see how Sehwag, Hooda and the troll gang robbed all the nuance from this poignant message of peace. Randeep Hooda, in fact, kept going on for quite a while and called her a ‘pawn’ and a ‘prop’ thus trying to portray that Gurmehar doesn’t have an independent faculty of thought.
One may or may not agree with what Gurmehar has to say but it is rather disgusting to cherry-pick a single poster out of the 36 posters and make that the basis of trolling, abuse and character assassination. It is even more disgusting when one realises that those words were a mother’s advice to a daughter who’s lost her father. While the 20 year old Gurmehar handled all this with a lot of poise and elegance, for many others, this episode is deeply unsettling.