Gurmehar, My Daughter

Is the idea of India a nose-ring that will fall off when a feverish girl or boy sneezes?
Gurmehar, My Daughter

The Kargil war happened about 18 years ago. When young Captain Mandeep Singh died, evicting Pakistani intruders, his daughter was just two years old, a little older than mine. Gurmehar Kaur grew up without a dad, probably grieving for him, longing for him and imagining him in various life situations. She must have come to terms with a missing father by forgiving the men who snatched his life, prematurely. That could be one reason why she doesn’t want to personify the Pakistani military establishment as an enemy or a killer.

Like the young captain, I was also there at Kargil. I was a young reporter covering the war, down below, near the Dras Brigade Headquarters. Shrapnel from a Pakistani artillery shell hit me, almost fatally. I too had a toddler at home when I was lying unconscious, not capable of thinking whether I would live or die.

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Had I died of that shrapnel wound, my daughter too could have grown up to be a pacifist and I would not have turned in my grave because the near-death experience did not make me a war-monger or a Muslim-hater. After all, to be a pacifist or a militarist is a decision best left to young fiery idealists, just as we would let them decide whether they want to pierce their nose or not. Just as we rib them asking whether they would stop with the nose or carry on to the eyebrows, we can always tell them that they are wrong about Pakistan not killing our officers and soldiers.

Sure, it is ahistorical and apolitical to claim that war killed the Jews and not Hitler and his Nazi ideology. Nathuram Godse, and V.D. Savarkar’s ideo­logy, killed Gandhi and not merely post-Partition violence. We always need to tell our romantics that we are at times victims of history, that we often carry the dirty legacies of Partition and the Cold War. The raison d’etre of Pakistan is the two-nation theory that insists that Hindus and Muslims are two separate nations that can never live together. For Pakistan as an ideology to succeed, India has to be torn apart yet again. And Kashmir is just one part of this larger ideological agenda of dismembering the composite nation, with warts, pellets and all.

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Amidst all the sloganeering, moral indignation and burning naivete, we need to point out to our daughters that there is nothing secular about Kashmiri secessionism, that it is in practice Islamic secessionism fuelled by the Pakistani military-intelligence complex, which redirected the surplus hardware and software from the anti-Soviet jehad in Afghanistan.

They may listen or they may not. If they continue to shout slogans, they should be allowed to go on till they get a throat ache. Is the idea of India a nose-ring that will fall off when a feverish girl or boy sneezes? The insecurity of the Right is matched only by the stupidity of the Left. After all, around this time 50 years ago, did not the RSS and the Communists decide to share power in the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal governments? And our daughters should be told that politics alw­ays makes strange and opportunistic bedfellows.

But more important is to tell them that no rape threat should ever silence them. No snarling stray should stop them from stepping out of the house and no abusive neighbour should let them be pushed out of the neighbourhood. Our daughters have every right to say what they want to say. All bright  20-year-olds ought to rebel, with or without a cause. All my daughters!

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