Twenty-year-old Gurmehar Kaur has been in the spotlight over the last few days, after raising her voice against violence on campuses in the wake of clashes in Ramjas College last week. Kaur has been advocating peace — from endorsing stronger Indo-Pak ties to free speech among youth — for nearly a year now.
Who is Gurmehar Kaur?
Gurmehar Kaur was born to Rajvinder Kaur and Captain Mandeep Singh in Jalandhar. She lost her father at the age of two, after a Rashtriya Rifles camp came under militant attack in Jammu and Kashmir in 1999. He was one of the seven personnel killed in the attack. Kaur resides in Delhi, where she is studying English Literature at Lady Sri Ram College for Women, Delhi University. She is also the ambassador for Postcards for Peace, a charitable organisation that helps eliminate any form of discrimination.
What is Kaur fighting for?
Gurmehar Kaur launched a #ProfileForPeace campaign last April, advocating peace between India and Pakistan. “If there was no war between us, my father would still be here,” she had said. In her viral video, Gurmehar asked both governments to “stop pretending” and “solve the problem”. She said, “I am questioning the caliber of leadership of both nations; we cannot dream of becoming a first world country with third world leadership.”
Why is Gurmehar Kaur in the news now?
Kaur is part of the ‘Save DU campaign’ following the clashes in Ramjas College last week where activists of the AVBP allegedly clashed with students, where JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid were invited for a seminar. While Khalid and Rashid did not turn up for the event, ABVP students still went ahead with their violent protest, stoning the seminar hall. The Save DU campaign supports students’ right to freedom of speech. Her poster protest image, shared on Facebook, reads, “I am a student from Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me. #StudentsAgainstABVP”. The viral post incited reactions from the ruling establishment as well as from politicians cutting across party lines.
Who said what?
Kaur’s campaign has taken a political turn, after various leaders commented on her campaign. Key among those is Union Minister of State for Home Affairs of India Kiren Rijiju who quipped: “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind?” He added that “freedom of expression is not a license to shout anti-national slogans in campuses. Criticise the government but don’t abuse the motherland” and that “Kargil war must not be exploited.” Today, speaking to reporters, Rijiju said “souls of martyr’s must be crying following students being misguided”. BJP MP Pratap Simha also stoked controversy after comparing Kaur to fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim. He posted a picture collage on Twitter with Kaur on one side and Ibrahim on the other side.
Congress praised Kaur for raising her voice against intolerance and said that for every voice suppressed, there will be a Gurmehar Kaur. The office of Congress vice-president tweeted, “Against the tyranny of fear we stand with our students. For every voice raised in anger, intolerance and ignorance there will be a Gurmehar Kaur”.
Meanwhile, cricketer Virender Sehwag and actor Randeep Hooda also waded into the controversy. While Hooda said Kaur is being used as a pawn, Sehwag appeared to take a potshot at an earlier video of her. In the video, Kaur had held up a placard saying ‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war did’. Sehwag posted a picture with a placard saying ‘I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did’.
What about Kaur?
She has reportedly left Delhi for the time being, after allegedly receiving threats of rape and murder. Swati Maliwal, the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) chairperson, has written to Delhi Police Commissioner Amulya Patnaik asking him to set a precedent by acting against the perpetrators. “Police must take action against those boys giving rape threats to Gurmehar Kaur and set an example” She said.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is meeting L-G Anil Baijal, to demand that the Delhi Police take action against members of student union ABVP for last week’s violence at Ramjas college as well as the threats to Kaur.