Gurmehar Kaur, daughter of Kargil martyr Captain Mandeep Singh, whose social media campaign againstthe Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), recently went viral filed a complaint with the Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) saying she is being threatened with rape.
Kaur’s campaign, which she launched after the last week’s violence at Delhi University’s Ramjas College involving ABVP supporters, has not only triggered a huge ‘national, anti-national’ debate but also has given way to a political slugfest. Meanwhile, Kaur has been provided 24×7 security by Delhi commission of Women home guards.
But in the meantime, the Delhi University student who shot to limelight last week after her Facebook post taking on the ABVP went viral, has deleted her account on the social media site. “I just gave my opinion, but things were blown out of proportion after. I had a really bad time. I am not in a state to talk about it anymore. I cannot take it anymore,” she said on Wednesday.
The controversy erupted on February 21 over an invite to JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid to address a seminar which was withdrawn by Delhi’s Ramjas College following opposition by the ABVP. The next day violent clashes broke out on Delhi University’s north campus between the Left-leaning AISA and the ABVP, a students’ body linked to the RSS, with both sides accusing each other of physical and sexual assault.
Kaur was sucked into the row after one of her older social media posts on her father, Captain Mandeep Singh who was killed in Kashmir in 1999 during the Kargil war, and her perceptions about Pakistan and war, surfaced. “Pakistan did not kill my father. War killed him,” read one part of the post.
The 20-year-old alleged she was trolled and had received rape threats. She was panned across the board – from minister Kiren Rijiju and cricketer Virender Sehwag to Oylmpic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt and Haryana minister Anil Vij.
So much so, that Kaur pulled out of a protest march against the ABVP on Tuesday (February 28) and even left Delhi for her hometown Jalandhar. “The issue on which I spoke was blown out of proportion. I want to make it clear that I do not want to get into politics,” Kaur said.
Refusing to talk about her past, a visibly distraught Kaur said the incidents that took place on campus pained her but she had never imagined that the issue would take such an ugly turn.
Gurmehar Kaur may have become the face of the fight against the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), but she is not really basking in the limelight.
The 20-year-old, who took to the social media to attack the ABVP after the Ramjas College clash, said she was “saddened” that the issue had gained a political hue. “The issue on which I spoke went out of hand. I would like to clarify that I do not want to enter politics,” Gurmehar said at her residence in Jalandhar.
Kaur, a student of Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women, expressed reluctance to speak about her past. “I just gave my opinion, and I never expected the whole thing to take such a turn. I had a really bad time. I am not in a state to talk about it, and I cannot take it anymore.”
Gurmehar’s friends just couldn’t get used to the sight of mediapersons waiting outside her house every time they dropped by. “This has turned into such a big issue that we are scared even to say anything. Political parties have gained the most out of this,” said a family friend on the condition of anonymity. “Gurmehar takes after her father, who was so strong and forthcoming. She should not be troubled by mediapersons and politicians,” said another acquaintance.
The martyr’s daughter, for her part, wished that the media glare would move away. “It is not acceptable that people get to see my house, the place I stay, in the newspapers. It doesn’t feel good,” she said, adding that even having a meal peacefully was difficult with everybody bombarding her through phone and email.
In the meanwhile, coming out in support of Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur on Wednesday, Akal Takht jathedar Gurbachan Singh and Shiromani Gurdwarara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief Kirpal Singh Badungar slammed the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) and appealed to everyone to ensure her safety.
The Akal Takht jathedar said those issuing threats to Gurmehar, daughter of a Kargil martyr, should be ashamed of themselves, emphasising that Sikhs have always rescued daughters and sisters of others from cruel rulers, and today a Sikh daughter was facing threats of rape.
“Sikh qaum is standing with Gurmehar and will remain so… providing her safety is basic duty of every human being… Delhi government should be sincere on the issue. If any unfortunate incident takes place, Sikhs will never tolerate it,” said the head of highest temporal seat of Sikhs. Badungar also condemned threats received by Gurmehar following her social media campaign against the ABVP, and directly targeted the student wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), an Akali ally.
In a press release issued here, he said threats to Gurmehar and “this kind of hooliganism on pretext of nationalism” is a big challenge for the country.
“Followers of every religion in the country have the right of freedom and it should be protected,” he said, adding that safety of women was of utmost importance. Lauding Gurmehar, he said all the SGPC office-bearers will ensure her safety.
Despite these voices of support, few can deny that the 20-year-old student from Delhi University has been trolled into silence. She has reportedly left Delhi due to rape and death threats. She is not the first youngster to be at the receiving end of the binary of the nationalist/anti-national.
Kaur’s abusers used two distinct reactions. The first was what has become a standard issue response to the articulation of progressive views by women — sexual harassment. Rape threats and death threats flew thick and wild.
The second was to shame her for using her father, the soldier’s death as a plank for contrived morality. The strategies were used in combination, becoming a textbook case of the militarised society with heightened levels of gender-based violence.
When celebrities such as cricketer Virender Sehwag and actor Randeep Hooda jumped into the fray, they did so in the face of a very real intimidation that Kaur was facing, providing the cue for hundreds of trolls to move in swiftly with a barrage of abuse and threats. Their cavalier intervention, as also tweets and subsequent comments by Kiren Rijiju, the Union Minister of State for Home, show that the reality that a young woman could possibly have agency and think independently, without any assistance whatsoever from male members of society, has entirely bypassed our leaders and icons of sport and entertainment.
Other types of politics have also played out wherein representatives within the government used the Delhi University brouhaha and student violence to push further the agenda of curbs on freedom of speech and expression.
It took a while for apologies to be tendered to Gurmehar Kaur by some of the personalities who contributed to her painful experience. But it’s been too little and too late for a brave girl who dared to stand upto politics of hate.