This January, eShe magazine held a two-day Indo-Pak Peace Summit Led by Women, where 40 eminent personalities from around world came together to seek solutions to peace in South Asia.
On day two of the Summit, student leader, author and peace activist Gurmehar Kaur took centrestage. Gurmehar lost her father Captain Mandeep Singh at the age of two, when he was killed in a militant attack in 1999 in Jammu and Kashmir.
As a college student in Delhi, Gurmehar launched a peace campaign advocating amity between India and Pakistan. Her campaign was later trolled by some political leaders, cricketers and even members of parliament.
But she went on to become a voice for Indo-Pak peace and she also wrote two books: Small Acts of Freedom and The Young and the Restless. She has served as a speaker at the Harvard US India Initiative in 2018. At present she is pursuing her Masters in Modern South Asian Studies from Oxford University and is the Ambassador for UK-based charitable organization Postcard for Peace.
In her talk she shared her own perspective of peace. Quoting author Arundhati Roy’s book Azadi, she says coronavirus has really made it clear that manmade national borders are a ‘sham’ as we live in an interdependent borderless world. “Don’t allow people who benefit from living in binaries stop you from dreaming,” she said.
Quoting her own experience of loss after her father’s death, she explains why peace cannot just mean ‘the absence of war’ as the school books tell us, but rather, it must mean ‘the absence of trauma’, for the trauma of war goes on for several generations after any war ends.
She also talks about her definition of freedom, and why India isn’t there yet: “There is freedom in dissent. True freedom looks like a place where I am not weighed down by trauma, where I’m not weighed down by state narratives, where I am free to talk about whatever I want to talk about, where I’m free to question the definitions of nation and the creation of a nation, where I’m free to question the purpose of that creation of the nation.”
Hear her full talk here.