Much has been commented on the Gurmehar Kaur issue. The young girl has been trolled and abused by many. Others have stood by her and appreciated her courage. The issue has occupied center stage in media (print and visual), on facebook, whatsapp groups, among politicians, celebrities and the entire nation. The crux of the views expressed by Gurmehar was that the act of war was a destructive act (a big revelation as if), that this destructive act was responsible for her father’s death, that she was opposed to use of violence (and any group that used it) in order to stifle expression of opinions contrary to one’s own and that she had understood the futility of harboring hatred towards a specific nation or community through personal experience and struggle within herself, and had since come to value peace over war and love over hatred. What is rankling my mind, after listening to the din of voices crying hoarse in order to be heard, is the issues (or non-issues) that dominate popular debates, the extent of polarization these debates can create, the level which one can attain in trying to defend one’s point of view and the role of mass media in determining the direction of a discourse.
India is a developing nation and is a part of a world which is dealing with numerous crisis situations. There are multitudinous issues that require immediate attention, which if not given, can lead to dire irreversible consequences. Visible and real climate change seems to me the foremost among these issues, which poses an existential threat to the entire world community. Depleting natural resources and increasing population is bound to result into a fierce competition among humankind, for their ownership. All this, because humankind accepted that survival of the fittest was the only theory by which one could exist, that blind competition was the only way possible by which society could be made to function effectively, that nature, earth and its resources were unlimited and at humankind’s disposal to be utilized at free will. The mantra was to aim for maximum material growth and unbridled power to rule over the world. In this mad race, everyone forgot to stop and think that even a maximum needs to have a concrete definition, that the resources are actually not non-extinguishable, that in proving one to be the fittest, one also stands the risk of being left alone in a vast universe of death and destruction, with not a soul surviving to even congratulate one on attaining the status of the ‘fittest’.
What has all of the above to do with Gurmehar Kaur? Nothing. Except that all the minds that are at work in inventing reasons to denounce her and all the minds that are at work (including mine) in trying their best to protect and support her, have loads of actual, real, concrete issues that have the capacity to destroy mankind, to work their minds on. There is no dearth of problems that are threatening humankind. Then why is it that we choose to blow out of proportion and spend days and months on issues that are actually non-issues? If a girl expresses her views against the horrors of war, against the futility of hatred, against the use of violence as a threat to silence voices, then what is it that makes one so insecure as to come all guns blazing against her, so disproportionate, as to scare her out of her wits? The seeds of hatred that are being sown, watered and carefully nurtured will reap only more hatred. Not a single soul will ever benefit out of this, be it the ones sowing these seeds, the ones quietly watching them grow, or the ones trying to nip them in the bud.
Today there is Gurmehar Kaur, tomorrow there will be someone else who will become an easy target for the entire nation to show their debating skills, the matchless arguments that they can garner. The media will have a field day and will use all tools at their disposal to finish at the top of the TRP race. In a course of a few days or months, things will fizzle out and one Gurmehar Kaur will be replaced by some other, for the entire cycle to be repeated again. In all this entertainment drama, there will be no thought spared for the individual for whom this entire experience will be a life-changing one, who, probably, will struggle to emerge from the impact of it, who, probably, will be a changed individual thenceforth. Not a thought will be spared to ruminate on the depths to which humankind is day-by-day stooping. Nobody will stop and think, take stock of the situation, try to make amends, because all will be pre-occupied with thinking of the next witty comment they can make, of the ways in which they can make their fellows trip and fall and race ahead themselves, of the numerous ways in which they can prove their superiority over others. The only thing that will be forgotten in this hullaballoo is that a blind and mad race can only lead to more madness and blindness and nothing more than that.
Nivedita Dwivedi is currently pursuing my MA in Elementary Education from Tata Institute of Social Sciences.