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Why Gurmehar’s Response To Memes Against Her Isn’t An Attack On Free Speech

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Co-authored by Ananaya Pande:

Gurmehar Kaur – the girl you saw flashing all over your television screens, holding a placard in hand, eyebrows raised, gaze fixed at the tiny round lens of a cell phone camera has been bullied again, and this time, without any reason.

This time, it is about two 20-year-old boys, who received about 11,000 views just by posting memes that weren’t amusing, and secondly, were defamatory in nature about the 20-year-old girl and many of her contemporaries. They targeted females by challenging their contributions and ideologies. This meme depicts the hypocrite mindset and rigidity against people changing.

The memes which were posted by Squint Neon

The incident that happened with Gurmehar is a perfect example of how a narrative can be twisted to suit the story and sensationalised beyond boundaries that are acceptable. The entire idea of Gurmehar cyber-bullying the ones making the memes is flawed and illogical. How can we consider the act of someone standing up for themselves against the meme creators as bullying?

Incidents that happened with her previously had the sole purpose of targeting her – and not defending anyone in general. Some people with extremist ideologies want to break Gurmehar down, but not build the country up. In their defence, they criticise the ‘left-leaning’ systems. People like them threaten the women of their own country in the name of ‘nationalism’.

Gurmehar Kaur tried to take away the memes targeting her, and she didn’t target any entity in general. Most of the people who are being brainwashed by a portion the media forget the difference between the ‘freedom of expression’ and bullying. They forget that the Supreme Court itself has called the defamation laws to be reasonable restrictions on the ‘freedom of speech’.

Gurmehar Kaur requested the admin of the page to put down the content.

Gurmehar was being kind, despite the admin of the page Squint Neon being extremely insensitive and promoting hate. A meme page promoting hate is not worth it. And here, Gurmehar again has done nothing wrong by asking someone not to exploit her identity by posting insensitive memes which can result in defamation. Gurmehar has the right to maintain her well-being and protect her intellectual identity that she has made for herself, by herself.

Facebook pages have criticised how Gurmehar is constricting the ‘freedom of speech’ practiced by the youths but they fail to recognize the various clauses and exceptions mentioned in Section 499 and Section 500 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). According to Section 499 of the IPC, “Whoever, by words either spoken or intended to be read, or by signs or by visible representations, makes or publishes any imputation concerning any person intending to harm, or knowing or having reason to believe that such imputation will harm, the reputation of such person, is said, except in the cases hereinafter expected, to defame that person.” And this might result in an imprisonment of up to two years.

“Criminal intimidation” under Section 499 of IPC.

The pages go as far as calling the prey the predator and accuse Gurmehar of cyber-bullying. But when one does look at the exchanges, Gurmehar’s message clearly shows no intimidation from her side. In fact, it shows repeated courteous request made to people she is unaware of.

It seems people have taken offence to her popularity and fame. Many die to become popular, but people rarely have an idea of how their statements and actions will be misinterpreted and tampered with. And this case right here is the best example of it.

Genuine and polite requests made by Gurmehar to the page.

The saddest part is that she received a lot of hate messages even though she was just exercising her right and ‘requesting’ to put the content down. Some media houses even stated that she wanted to mass report that Facebook meme page, but no evidence of this could be found. It was a voluntary action by those to whom it seemed suitable and morally correct to block the page. The only thing she asked was to put the content down. Even then, there were a few who continued to harass her saying that they would continue making memes even if these posts were deleted.

Apparently ‘logical people’ exercise their rights in the guise of insults, threats and derogatory messages.

Directly throwing offensive messages through memes, and making efforts for peace without blaming any country or politician are two very different things that we need to understand. We need to remember that we eventually perceive things the way we want.

If you hate someone, all you see in their words is hate. But if you are reasonable enough, you will be willing to explore all sides of the story. And lastly, if Gurmehar Kaur standing up for her own rights threatens the ‘freedom of speech’ practised by ignorant, biased and inconsiderate youngsters, so be it!


Ratnadeep Chakraborty is pursuing his Honours in Journalism from Christ University. He has written over twenty articles about student politics and protests. He has worked as a research analyst for multiple politicians and political bodies across the country like B.PAC. Presently, he is working as the general secretary for Dialogue, a student-run, policy-making institute. You can get in touch with him at Ratnadeep.author@gmail.com.

Ananya Pande is a student from Christ University who is pursuing media studies, economics, and political sciences. She has a knack for literature and enjoys writing poetry as well. You can get in touch with her at ananya.pande5@gmail.com.


 

You must be to comment.
  1. Rohin Bright

    This is awesome. 🙂

  2. Madhu Sudhanan

    This is really good!

  3. Arbind Kumar

    I am ashamed of people like you. It shows what kind of dangerous people are around in Society. People like you make me worried about my children.
    Shame on you

  4. Ravi Agarwal

    Your article is wrong on so many accounts that where do I begin :

    1. You need to consult a lawyer to know the legal meaning of defamation. Suppose, I say that “this article is trash and the persons who wrote this are morons”. Now as a reader, that’s my opinion. But if I say “This article is written by a mad commie Bong who has been paid by CPM”. Now, you can bring me to the court for this. In fact, that’s what happened. Kejriwal called all politicians as corrupt but no one could touch him. But the moment he said, “Arun Jaitely is corrupt and earned money in DDA scam”, he is running around in courts. The kids too targeted the third wave feminists and not Gurmehar in particular. Even if they did, they cant be sued for defamation.
    There was only one law under which they could be harmed and that was Section 66A, which has been scrapped.

    2. “They targeted females by challenging their contributions and ideologies”. How can you say that? Infact, they glorified the ladies in ISRO. On contrary, what’s the contribution of other ladies in the meme? Other than playing victim card, making stupid sensational videos presenting all Indian men as molesters and using the women card when politically cornered? And which law stops anyone from targeting any ideology verbally, be it of a man or woman?

    3. There is a screenshot where she claims “that a page is posting defamatory content against her. She has sent it to police but does someone know a guy in Facebook who can pull it down”. On that post, several wannabees ask for that page address and claim that by 250-300 reports, a page can be taken down (and Gurmehar liked many of the comments). After that there was mass reporting and admin’s ID was blocked by Facebook which forced him to move to Twitter and share his ordeal. You couldn’t find this screenshot? So much for free speech

    4. Even if we accept you points, Gurmehar Kaur should have a higher level of tolerance. Didn’t she stand for the likes of Shehla Rashid and Umar Khalid to present their extremist views in Ramjas? In a TV interview, she says “If I am offended by someone’s opinion, that doesnt mean I can throw stones”.What happened to that? A lady claiming to be a free speech activist couldnt tolerate a meme.

    5. Recently, a case was registered against AIB for posting a morphed meme of Modi. All you so called free speech activist rallied in their support. The kids just posted a representational pic of Gurmehar and you immediately switched sides?

    6. You think that telling kids to delete a meme or their carrers will be ruined is a ‘request’? And she repeatedly claims that she has forwarded the memes to police. If she has sent them to police, where is the question of request then? She has already done the damage.

    7. Suppose, you get a mail from a BJP member to delete all memes, all articles adverse of Modi or they will take similar actions. If you will silently do so without any protest, you are rightful in your article. If you wont, you are just a hypocrite playing devil’s advocate.

    I am sorry but your article is more of a rhetoric rather than factual. There are 3 articles circulating on net against Gurmehar’s hypocrisy :
    a) https://www.quora.com/If-hypocrisy-was-a-person-who-would-be-it-from-todays-world-and-why/answer/Aditya-Tiwari-157/
    b) http://www.opindia.com/2017/10/remember-gurmehar-kaur-shes-now-accused-of-threatening-young-boys-for-making-memes/
    c) https://www.scoopwhoop.com/gurmeher-kaur-freedom-of-speech/#.81y5fy4o7

    All of them compare and contrast Gurmehar’s actions on the opposite side of the table factually. But you countered none of those facts. You just made statements.
    “They targeted women’s contribution and ideology” (which contribution, what ideology, how is it criminal and offensive?). Ican point out several more errors and inaccuracies in your article but that would make it longer than your article itself.

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