Viruji, Don’t Silence Gurmehar’s Idealism With Your Words: Tharoor
Bit of sensitivity towards martyrs will help us understand the agony behind Gurmehar’s words, writes Shashi Tharoor.
I am disappointed that my cricket hero Virender Sehwag chose to enter the wholly politicised debate over Gurmehar Kaur’s words by saying, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did.”
Not everyone might agree with an idealist student’s comment: “Pakistan did not kill my father, war killed him.” We all know that "war" does not happen in the abstract, but as a result of concrete policies pursued by governments and armies.
We also know that the Kargil War that killed Gurmehar’s father was imposed on India by Pakistan and it was a tragedy inflicted on her family and hundreds of other brave soldiers’ families, by malign men across the border. It might be more correct therefore, to say “All Pakistanis did not kill my father; those Pakistanis who started this war killed him.”
Gurmehar Used the Correct Word ‘War’
But who are we who have not endured what Gurmehar did at a tender age to substitute our worldly-wise realpolitik for the idealism of a 20-year old student?
Viruji, it does not do justice to the memory of the martyr for any of us to be insensitive to the feelings of his family, however emotional their words may be, since they, not us, have suffered the brunt of the loss, and is their prerogative to react to that loss.
You used to silence opposition bowlers with the power of your bat. Do not let cynics exploit the power of your words to silence a young woman's idealism.
Debates on television channels, lacking in nuance and in some cases, basic common sense, missed the point that she used the correct word “war”. She did not say “bullets”. Her point was that it was not just the bullets that killed him, but the war that caused those bullets to fly. So it was not just your bat that scored those triple hundreds Viruji, but the man who wielded that bat to such astonishing effect.
Your Witty Counter Trivialises a Serious Issue
That is why your seemingly witty counter to her is not only wrong, it also trivialises a serious issue concerning war, loss, and deeply personal emotions that are felt only by those who have suffered.
War is still, as Roosevelt said, ‘Young men dying and old men talking’. You are too young to join the old men who are pouring cold water on Gurmehar’s hopes and dreams.
I remember something you said some years ago, I believe during your convocation ceremony at Jamia Millia, where you were presented with your degree. You said then that this degree was more important to you than your triple hundred.
Let’s Give Gurmehar and Her Family Moral Support
I hope Viruji, that you will now revisit what that degree stands for, and what is expected not only from a public figure of your standing, but also from an evolved, educated mind.
I admire that Gurmehar has the courage of her convictions and is willing to stand up for them. In time, she will learn the importance of nuance in the way she expresses herself, so as not to incur this kind of criticism. Meanwhile, let us give her the moral support her family's sacrifice deserves.
(Former UN under-secretary-general, Shashi Tharoor is a Congress MP and an author. He can be reached @ShashiTharoor. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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