I never knew this much hate was possible book excerpt


Student activist Gurmehar Kaur was listed by TIME magazine as a global ‘Next Generation Leader’

With my exams coming up, the Ramjas College fest was the last thing on my mind. In fact, after a rough time at our own fest that year, I wanted to run away as far as I could from the word itself. I had my own problems. Ramjas can sort out its freedom of expression issue on its own, I thought, and left to get a coffee. My best friend joined me and we sat to do our work. Every so often, we’d chatter about college gossip – who was doing what, who was standing for which post on the students’ union, whom we should vote for and if the previous union was corrupt or not. Our phones were on airplane mode because both of us knew that there was no way we could finish our work if there were Instagram and Facebook notifications begging us to glance at our phones.

That evening, when we got back to our rooms and turned off airplane mode, our phones started buzzing with WhatsApp messages. What was going on? Why was everyone panicking? My phone was flooded with harrowing pictures of violence. These were not pictures that were being circulated by the media – who tended to blow things out of proportion anyway – but those that were being sent to us, in real time, by our own friends who were there.

It all happened in a blur. The students – who had been peacefully protesting to condemn the campus violence involving the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) – were roughed up. There were long messages telling us what had happened and asking if any of us could shelter the injured girls. But as is the case with most college hostels, no one could enter our hostel after a certain hour. I was told that students were lathi-charged at the protest and herded into police vans like sheep. Then they were taken to a metro station and left there.

I felt anger, closely followed by overwhelming helplessness. What could I have done, sitting in my hostel, honouring a curfew of 8.30 p.m.? How could I help when I could not even go out, I kept wondering. This wasn’t just breaking news on TV, these were injustices happening to my own friends. It is so easy to dismiss the bad in the world when it is playing on your TV screens like a movie. You start to think it’s all fiction but it never is. It is happening somewhere in the world, to real people, and this time it was happening to people that I knew, people that I saw in my college every day, laughing and smiling.

How does one ignore something like this?

I took a piece of paper-one side of which, in fact, had notes from the previous semester and two different coloured pens. Red and black. My friend wrote down the message we had just sat together and framed. I stood with my back to the white wooden door, holding up the sheet as my friend clicked a picture. It was uploaded with a caption on my Facebook profile page.

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