March 3rd, 2017
At times there is information which instils hatred in us. We just go through the image grabs, screenshots, memes and posts to form our opinion. We start hating someone we haven’t even met as it is easier to hate someone than to develop compassion towards them.
Umar Khalid, who is a PhD scholar of Historical Studies, was invited to Ramjas College to give a speech on “The War In Adivasi Areas”. It was later cancelled.
Image Courtesy: Facebook/Haroon Kavanoor
Next day, members from ABVP went to Ramjas College and pelted stones at the students there. They locked them inside and brutally beat them up. One of the students attempts to strangulate a professor, whose ribs are broken. They attacked journalists with police being either mute spectators or complicit in it. This is displayed on social media and for the first time, media calls out ABVP for the violence, and they are held responsible by every single media house.
A girl named Gurmehar Kaur starts a postcard campaign which states that she is a student of Delhi University and she is not afraid of ABVP. Digital platforms started covering her campaign with her as the thumbnail image. The campaign went viral on social media.
Image Courtesy: Facebook/GurMehar Kaur
Next, we saw Cricketer Virendra Sehwag tweeting a post mocking her using an image where she had stated, “Pakistan didn’t kill my father war did”.
Now as a celebrity tweeted this, it became news with almost every media house getting sensational news which brought both good engagement and traffic to their websites. Almost every media house covered it, fuelling the hatred against her. She got rape and death threats. Even Kiren Rijiju, Union Minister of State for Home Affairs of India, says that someone is polluting her mind. Amidst this all, he surprisingly does not get time to comment on the ABVP violence.
No one mentioned that the image being circulated was taken from a year-old video and picked up from amongst 32 posters in the video. The video has more than 23 lakh views from a single facebook post. The same video has been posted on different youtube channels and has been circulating on social media for the past year. The video is a message against war. For one year no one had a problem with that screengrab. But the moment she chose to raise voice against ABVP, someone saw it as a good opportunity to use the screengrab from a video and take it out of context to fulfil their agenda. We are not aware of who started it, but the intention is very clear from the timing of the video, and the context. Sadly none of us noticed the title of the video which stated that this was “a message from an Indian girl whose father was killed by Pakistani soldiers”. This clearly states that she is not absolving Pakistan from what they have done.
Even our Prime Ministers, both in the past and now have supported peace talks with Pakistan. Recently, the Indian Government Opposed an MP’s Call to Declare Pakistan a ‘Terrorist Nation’.
Image Source: Asian Tribune
Randeep Hooda who also mocked her has himself previously wished Pakistani nationals Independence Day and has clearly said war is due to the arms industry and personal ambitions of few individuals.
Now the girl has withdrawn from the campaign and has left Delhi and is staying in Jalandhar. She has been silenced. Even now people are not satisfied, they are criticising her and asking why she withdrew, and whether she has any political ambitions. Even if she does have those ambitions; it is her right to have so. Many DU students including Arun Jaitley and Kapil Sibal are prominent politicians now. Everyone has the right to express and to agree or disagree but it should be with mutual respect.
By the time you reached this paragraph, you would have forgotten about ABVP goonda-ism, and for you, too, the Gurmehar issue has become important. What followed after Sehwag’s tweet was a sense of chaos and people losing their own grasp on the issue and debate which became all about nationalism again. Once nationalism comes into the picture, it is very difficult to keep sanity and objectivity.
The madness in the method being used to distract public from one core issue of violence and shutting down the voices of an individual by their character assassination. And the stupidity lies with the common public too, while there are few to do the propaganda and spread hatred, there are millions who become victims to it. We need to be more conscious and have our own principles on the issues. Because, for those who don’t have a stand, there are many others waiting to make a fool out of them.
Neither ABVP is important nor Gurmehar. Sehwag, Hooda and everyone else has the right to express their opinions as long as long as they are civil. What is not right is to use an image out of context to target someone and fuel hatred. The condemnation of rape threats and abuses must be without any excuse. How can one justify rape threats under the garb of nationalism?
As Gurmehar has withdrawn from the campaign, Sehwag has said that he stands with Gurmehar’s right to express her opinion. Are we going to ensure the violence by ABVP is not repeated, and they are not emboldened?
Those who are participating in the debate have to ask questions to themselves about how important free speech is for them and yes it comes with the responsibility, but that can only be decided by Court and no one else. Or do we believe in having Khap Panchayat on Social media, where the laws don’t apply, and we can brand anyone national or anti-national based on whether the person agrees with our views?
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