Well, Look Who "Polluted" Gurmehar Kaur's Mind

A young, feisty, intelligent woman has been trolled these past few days for having a point of view on India-Pakistan ties. She has been abused, attacked and hounded by the usual army on Twitter. But what should anguish our great democracy is that she has even been mocked by a senior government minister and a ruling party MP. When Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju asks who is "polluting" Gurmehar Kaur's mind, he is assuming she is too dumb to have a mind of her own, attributing political motives, patronising this 1st-year student of Lady Shri Ram college for having an opinion. The entire debate tells us a lot about the Indian male's mind too. That is why actors like Randeep Hooda are quick to assume that this "poor girl" is a "pawn".

How many of those attacking her actually saw her video in full? Gurmehar was trying to make a bigger point about peace, because she lost her father, a soldier. Those attacking her called her out for one line: "Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him". But see the full video. She says "I was 2 years old when my father died...I remember how much I hated Pakistanis because they killed my father...When I was 6 years old, I tried to stab a lady in a burkha because for some strange reason, I thought she was responsible for my father's death...my mother held me back and made me understand that Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him."

So Mr Minister, it was Gurmehar's mother who "polluted" her mind. The widow of a soldier who died for India. She was trying to teach her daughter not to hate the people of Pakistan for what happened to her father.

Speaking to me in an interview today, Mr Rijiju admitted he had not even seen Gurmehar's full video. And yet, a responsible union minister like him went ahead and tweeted anyway. Sample a small transcript of our conversation:

Mr Rijiju: I was busy campaigning in Manipur. Some journalists came to me and showed me her tweet. I was out of network area. This group of journalists showed me a video that showed her saying that her father was killed by the war and not Pakistan. So only to that point, I said that there is no war going on with Pakistan right now.

NDTV: Did you see the full video or just that line?

Mr Rijiju: I have not gone through anything. I didn't have time.

NDTV: How can you comment on anything when you have half information?

Mr Rijiju: That's what I am saying..I don't have to say anything about that girl.

In the age of Twitter, it takes only minutes for fiction to become fact, for people to be bullied and mocked for having a point of view, for abuse and threats to take a life of their own. 

So when 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur's video from 2016 on her father's death suddenly went viral, I wondered what had prompted the belated reaction. It seems her post against the RSS' student wing, the ABVP, riled her critics, and that's how she got attacked online not just for her stand on the ABVP, but also for her earlier video.

The issue isn't about Virendra Sehwag or Hooda's freedom of expression. It is how they mocked this woman online, when she was already facing threats and abuse, only to send a new wave of trolls after her. They are well within their rights to disagree with her, and could have engaged with her directly. But they didn't even have the courage to tag her and have a civilised debate. People like Sehwag and Hooda have a huge following online, and with that comes a greater responsibility.

By the time Mr Rijiju tweeted, Gurmehar had already choked up on NDTV and talked about the rape threats she was getting. Instead of assuring her that she would be safe, Mr Rijiju, under whose charge the Delhi police comes, decided to attack her instead, deploying many more trolls to her timeline. Today he told NDTV he was not aware she was facing rape threats when he tweeted.

Mr Rijiju, who after telling reporters he was not making this about Gurmehar, retweeted Yogeshwar Dutt, who mocked her with a tweet showing, among other things, a photo of Gurmehar on one side, and of Hitler on the other, saying "Did not kill Jews, gas did".

A BJP MP, Pratap Simha, compared Gurmehar to gangster Dawood Ibrahim. Is this what our great nation has come to? Have the views of a 20-year-old woman shaken these grown men so much? Men who are twice her age? Is India so fragile, that one college student's views have unleashed this barrage of hate?

The only minds that are polluted are the ones that are trying to hound those with a different point of view, bully them into toeing a line. We should not stand for it. 

(Nidhi Razdan is Executive Editor, NDTV and the anchor of NDTV 24x7's prime-time show Left, Right and Centre.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.
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