Trolls at best, bullies at worst: what the hounding of Gurmehar Kaur tells us

Written by Maitreyee Shukla | Published on: March 1, 2017
gurmehar kaur

I am not one for generalizations, but the incessant trolling, rape threats, bullying and condescending allegations of being ‘used’ as a political tool that Gurmehar Kaur has been facing paint a picture that’s hard to get rid of. It seems like the central government officials, right wing student organizations and their supporters are a bunch of trolls at their best behavior and pathetic bullies at their worst.

Gurmehar’s father was martyred in the Kargil war. In a video, that has been viral, she explained the pain she went through; how she had started blaming Pakistan and Muslims, and how she gradually came to understand that it was the war that was responsible for her father’s death. Look at the nuance this 20 year old girl has! Being pro soldier means being anti-war, and no one could have put it more beautifully. It was a sad message, but it gave hope.

Hope, because we millennial are always accused of being socially and politically unaware by the previous generations. Because, after you lose a loved one, easiest way to cope with the pain is to put the blame on someone and hate them with all your heart. Hope because these are times where no one wants to risk their neck for others.

With that one message, this 20 year old student showed that she is socio- politically aware, mature enough to let go of hate and think rationally and brave enough to stand up for others.

For that, she should have received love. Instead, she has got the entire troll army sending her rape threats. And saddest part is, that army can boast of several celebrities and people of high stature now. Virender Sehwag poked an insensitive joke at one slide from her video. Randeep Hooda joined in. Twitter lost all its senses and went into a frenzy of jokes. Kiren Rijiju stripped her of any agency claiming that she is letting herself being ‘used’ as a political tool. And I can’t make up my mind as to which is worse.

I had a look at Gurmehar’s profile. Here are some of the comments she got:







And after all this, when people like Kiren Rijiju say that she is letting herself being used as a political tool, they indicate that she is incapable of thinking for herself. If she is a political tool, what are ABVP cadres? They are the same age as Gurmehar, if they are thinking individuals acting based on their ideology, so is she.

In a lot of ways, such statements encourage the troll army, and internet bullying is no small matter. Cyber bullies have access to their victim any time of the day, because of the relative anonymity that social networking provides, it is crueler then being bullied in person sometimes; and by their actions, stalwarts like Sehwag, Hooda, and Rijiiju are trivializing a criminal offence.

Rajiv Tyagi, a former Fighter Pilot with the Indian Air Force says, “There is an attempt by the current fascist polity, to institutionalize online bullying and social violence by extending implicit and tacit support for it, by refusing to condemn such action. The ability of BJP acolytes to broadcast rape and death threats with impunity is a dangerous precedent for civilized society.”
One doesn’t have to agree with her to see something wrong with these comments. We seem to have forgotten the way of disagreeing with someone. I hope these people see what twisted, disturbing and above all, criminal trend they have extended their support to.

More power to you Gurmehar. All of our love, all of our solidarities.