Fascism masterminds the transmission of fear. It finds democratic expression of individual angst as well as collective protest blasphemous. These oppressive masters truly believe that they have already created the appropriate architecture for civil governance and individual liberty; remonstrating against it is a cardinal sin, an act of sacrilege against the all-powerful elected State. The State is the sole legitimate authority, everything else is secondary. Treason must be summarily extinguished with ruthless execution (public hangings in modern days are fortunately prohibited). What constitutes treason is a gray area, but that is a trifling inconvenience. It deserves swift retribution anyway, lest the vast majority get affected by the same discontented virus. Gurmehar Kaur just experienced how anti-India she was.
They threatened her with violent rape. On social media, there was an unending deluge of virulent abuse. Her singular fault—she wanted peace, not war.
When a young girl—who was just two years old when her father was killed fighting for his country during the Kargil war—made a social media broadcast of her independent position on college protests at Ramjas in Delhi University, a fractious mob of frenzied bullies took over. They threatened her with violent rape. On social media, there was an unending deluge of virulent abuse. Her singular fault—she wanted peace, not war. She spoke for harmony, not hate. She was insulted, humiliated and threatened. Childish celebrities wanting their share of the flash-bulbs joined in the mayhem to mortify her. Despite the hordes of TV channels, Twitter hashtag trends and multitudinous supporters, Gurmehar Kaur was terribly alone. She quietly left the city, for her alleged apostasy of true nationalism. I was appalled, aghast and ashamed. If you are not, don't read this piece further. You may be better off listening to PM Narendra Modi's self-righteous, substandard sermons on Beti Bachao Beti Padhao.
India is becoming subconsciously Talibanised, intolerant and angry as religious fundamentalism rises at a disconcerting pace. Everyone must subscribe to a carefully defined yet distorted interpretation of patriotism that is skillfully propagated by the bigoted right-wing. Criticising the laundry list of disastrous failures of this Modi government, particularly when it comes to foreign policy with reference to arch-adversary Pakistan, is like walking into a snake-pit with a torchlight beaming. It is committing hara-kiri. Gurmehar Kaur blamed the war for her father's death, not Pakistan. She's a palpably hurt girl, who has experienced a deep personal loss. Her incalculable grief has made her understand the futility of hate, the dangers of divisiveness. That was her fault. Because in questioning hate and divisiveness she was challenging the very political ideology of the RSS, BJP and their fledgling hooligans in the ABVP. The Sangh Parivar, thin-skinned on matters hyper-nationalist, was affronted.
In questioning hate and divisiveness she was challenging the very political ideology of the RSS, BJP and their fledgling hooligans in the ABVP.
But Gurmehar is not alone. Kanhaiya Kumar became the poster boy of Azadi , prompting Home Minister Rajnath Singh to suspect that the terrorist outfit Lashkar- e-Taiba was funding JNU students. It was bizarre! Rohith Vemula has to posthumously establish his Dalit credentials. FTII has been remorselessly smothered, subjugated into accepting a chairman they thought to be artistically bottom-rung. Jodhpur University, Jadavpur University, IIT Madras, BHU, the list is expanding. There exists a frightening shadow that threatens free speech. Why is Modi so paranoid, perceptibly apprehensive of free-spirited youth? Because he knows that the revolutionary spirit of change triggers from unencumbered, uncluttered minds that do not meekly tolerate a questionable status quo. They contemplate changing societal norms, value-systems, opposing philosophies, and foster argumentation. They are not meant to be like an RSS shakha, in a prescribed uniform, receiving regimented indoctrination.
We live in the age of the pseudo-nationalists; on social media, these disgruntled and demented trolls whose main goal is to unleash psychological violence against their targeted victims, terrorising them towards a mental disintegration. They often succeed. Noting works like relentless fury on your personal smartphone screen threatening physical intimidation. Narendra Modi follows many of these pathetic louts himself. If the local police seems literally paralysed into inaction against the visible perpetrators of hate crime, you know why. Just follow the chain of command.
Gurmehar Kaur represents not just youth, but hope. That you cannot destroy ideas, that you cannot intimidate public voice. Ever.
The fascist mind-set finds perceived enemies to be unbearable obstacles to their model of political puritanism. Over a period of time, social isolation is engineered, aiming ultimately at making them political untouchables. In the time of Adolf Hitler (without the mainstream TV and social media of today) obliteration itself was the preferred method. The Modi's government blatant antipathy towards Muslims is well-known. They have subsequently attacked Dalits, authors, intellectuals, writers, historians, artistes and film-makers. Shah Rukh Khan and Aamir Khan have been viciously hounded. Modi remains extraordinarily mute, and his luminous silence can only be interpreted as silent assent. The latest target are the Leftists, whose radical opinions have got them branded as separatists. In effect, there should be no political disagreements, we must live in an intellectual vacuum. Each in their own echo chamber.
Arun Jaitley talks of an "alliance of subversion" happening in Indian universities. Kiren Rijiju, suffering from a debilitating foot-in-the-mouth disease, expresses indignation over who was responsible for Kaur's "polluted mind." Ideological rigidity and political hubris is a toxic combination.
Gurmehar Kaur represents not just youth, but hope. That you cannot destroy ideas, that you cannot intimidate public voice. Ever. That is, in simple terms, quintessential democracy. She has manifested remarkable inner strength amid difficult times and inexplicable anger. Her commendable courage stands out. She has reason to feel proud. As would Captain Mandeep Singh.