I would feel prouder as an Indian if we had many more women like Gurmehar Kaur. And if our society had the democratic space for them to speak their mind freely, and for others to find that perfectly normal.
Gurmehar displays nothing but wisdom and a strong sense of morality in her conviction that the wide acceptance of war by nations, and the indulgent attitude towards hooligans who resort to physical violence to address ideological dissent, are far more serious problems in a society than people holding differing views about ideas such as nationalism. That she has come to terms with her father's martyrdom, become convinced that war is not a solution and is advocating for peace between India and Pakistan is a sign of her maturity. She has displayed extraordinary courage in expressing her views publicly. And she expressed them in the most clear and dignified manner.
The debasing tone of most of those who disagreed with Gurmehar stands in stark contrast with the grace of her arguments.
All this is only proof that she has acquired the capability to think independently and recognise some of the real problems ailing our nation and society. She can rise above narrow, bigoted notions and think for the nation and humanity.
This we can easily conclude about Gurmehar from what she has expressed so far. But what can we say about our society from how we (or certain sections of us) have responded to her?
Even though many have come out in support of Gurmehar, many are trolling her in ways that range from directly mocking and patronising to outright abusive. She has even been threatened with rape. Almost no one who disagreed with Gurmehar responded to her in a respectful or neutral language of dissent or argument that one would expect in a cultured society. The debasing tone of most of those who disagreed with Gurmehar stands in stark contrast with the grace of her arguments.
The sad reality is that we as a society do not get alarmed by this overt patronising and abusing of a 20-year-old woman who has an independent mind and the conviction to speak out for the values she believes in. Hurling open abuses and vulgar threats on social media platforms to those who we disagree with has become normal. Invoking one's own interpretation of patriotism appears to be a good enough reason to justify this as "normal". This is evident from the fact that while Gurmehar has received well meaning vocal support from several quarters, there is absence of moral outrage. No one from the central government has spoken against the abuse and intimidation being openly flung at Gurmehar. Two senior ministers and a member of parliament belonging to the ruling party have actually found fault with her mindset. Gurmehar being a Kargil War martyr's daughter and her tweets going viral are possibly the reasons behind such derogatory reactions. The reactions are probably emanating from a sense of insecurity arising out of one's feeble notions of religious-patriotism being shown for what they are, i.e. shallow passions bereft of any moral or humanistic compass. That all this is going on in a usual fashion shows the bizarre world we are living in.
The sad reality is that we as a society do not get alarmed by this overt patronising and abusing of a 20-year-old woman who has an independent mind...
Of course this debasement of our societal values did not occur due to the RSS or BJP. It has been a part of our history and tradition, as much as our progressive strains have been. With the rise of Hindutva and similar dogmatic forces at the centre of India's politics, however, there are many more outlets to spew hatred. That includes constitutionally legitimate outlets too. Only time will tell whether this trend takes deeper roots and hollows out our nation of whatever democratic, moral and spiritual values we have or it is stopped in the tracks and reversed. But one thing cannot be doubted—we need many more Gurmehars. I hope she will be an inspiration for my own daughters who are studying in school.