I don’t know what your name means literally. However, for me, you are synonymous with courage and hope. Like a regular 20-year-old, you also must be full of life and dreams. Some dreams may be unfulfilled, while you may have achieved others.
I didn’t know your father’s name until now. How many martyrs do we remember from before or after independence? From Kargil to Bangladesh, from Khudiram Bose, a young martyr and freedom fighter to Mandeep Singh. How many of us remember them, even while watching with pride, our armed forces during the January 26 parade? You could not forget them. Neither could you forgive wars, the weapons and the sight of dead bodies. Unlike others sitting there and abusing you, you have learned from your life what battles do to people.
In your poster story, you said how you hated Muslims as a kid. You hated Pakistan. How couldn’t you hate them? The absence of memory, the memory of the absence of your father haunted you, like so many of your age and less. You grew up hating an entire community and a country. It is so easy to hate, but so difficult to love. You did the difficult thing. Unlearned those hate speeches and learned how to love, how to see beyond created binaries of good and bad, national and ‘anti-national’.
I know, deep down, you feel very proud of your father, a man whom you loved, a man who loved you a lot, and a man who chose his duty over everything. Yet, that does not make you blind. You see why wars happen, why poor men of two countries start considering each other their enemies. Why the FDI in defence increases every year, why nuclear deals become the primary agenda of a country, where millions still live in poverty. You understand them, with pain and agony.
Gurmehar, I am so glad that you stood up and spoke your mind. In a country where women are killed even before they are born, you had the guts to utter such ‘unpopular’ words. At a time where the certificates of nationalism are being distributed by the devotees of Savarkar, you tore apart the mask of these fake patriots, with your honesty and sheer sense of humanity.
They have abused you in public and threatened you with rape. Some were sophisticated enough to limit themselves by pointing at your ‘political-pollution’. The people consisted of politicians, ex-army personnel, some conventional and unconventional actors, some individuals who claim to be social workers or students leaders for a change, and yes, a beloved cricketer.
Actually, I should have been writing this letter to them, instead of you, with some basic information on the idea of a nation or patriotism.Then I realised that it’s not only about education. There were so many ‘well educated’ people who were trolling you, questioning your integrity, questioning your morality. No, they do not do it because they are not learned.
After all, Manu was also a learned person. They do it because that is the ideology they believe in. As Manusmriti teaches that women always need to be subservient, glorifies the killing of Dalits as a holy job, these people too have learned from Golwarkar, Godse and Savarkar, in whose imagination India is a ‘Hindu’ country with a poster of Bharat Mata to forgive their sins.
It’s a country where some treat Muslims and communists as the primary enemy, where Dalits are tortured as Shambuk, tribals have to pay the price of being skilful by cutting their fingers, Muslims are killed like Akhlaq or made to disappear like Najeeb.
In this ‘Akhand Bharat-Ek Bharat’, do they have any place for a woman? How will you, the daughter of a martyr, find your place there?
You spoke up as you did not agree to this idea of India. You came out on the streets, seeing fellow students of your university being beaten up by goons. You were not afraid of them. Why should you be? Therefore, you rose up, stood straight and created a history.
So, many Gurmehars with no political affiliation or partisan identity looked up to you and came on to the streets. Partisans, activists like us, saw you and saw hope. The University of Delhi, which had been under the terror of the right wing hooligans for the past years, stood up with you, woman, for a much cherished democracy. Yesterday, when thousands of students and teachers marched on the streets of Delhi, your voice echoed in the in their loud claps and slogans.
They are no more afraid of ABVP, just like you. You have not been defeated, woman. You won this battle and made all of us victorious. Just like your father, you brought glory to the nation, in a true sense.
Salute to you Gurmehar. Love and power to you.