Updated at 3:40 p.m. ET on 2016-05-11
Less than two weeks after posting a silent video in which she called for peace between arch rivals India and Pakistan, Indian teenager Gurmehar Kaur is struggling with the fact that she’s now an internet sensation.
In the online video that runs over four minutes, Kaur conveys her message without uttering a word and through a series of 30 placards. Her father, Capt. Mandeep Singh, was killed during a war between the two countries 17 years ago.
The video has received more than a million views since it appeared on Facebook on April 29.
“I cannot believe how popular the video has become,” the 19-year-old university student, who is based in Jalandhar, Punjab, told BenarNews.
But fame was not the motive behind making the video, she added.
“All I intended to do was to urge people of my generation to open up to the idea of living in peace and embracing each other,” Kaur said.
In the video, Kaur says she was two years old when her father was killed in the Kargil War in India-administered Kashmir.
The nearly three-month war, which began on May 3, 1999, after local shepherds reported Pakistani intrusion in the high-altitude Kargil district, claimed almost 1,000 Indian and Pakistani lives, according to official figures from both sides.
Blame war, not Pakistan
“I have very few memories of him [my father]. I have more memories of how it feels to not have a father,” reads one of the English placards in Kaur’s video.
“I also remember how much I used to hate Pakistan and Pakistanis because they killed my dad. I used to hate Muslims too because I thought all Muslims are Pakistanis,” she goes on to say silently.
“When I was six years old, I tried to stab a lady in a burkha, because for some strange reason I thought she was responsible for my father’s death.”
But instead of letting that anger and hurt harden into bitterness, Kaur overcame that and turned those feelings into something more positive and constructive, she told Benar.
Since the partitioning of the Indian sub-continent in 1947, ties between India and Pakistan have remained strained. The two countries, which have fought three wars, routinely accuse each other of ceasefire violations, mostly in the disputed Himalayan state of Kashmir, claimed in its entirety by both sides.
“Through the video, all I am trying to say is that I was able to look beyond my personal tragedy and not deposit the blame on Pakistan or anybody else for that matter. There are more people like me, who have lost loved ones to war, and I want them to try to do the same,” she said in a phone interview.
‘Media refused to carry it’
The video was a collaborative effort between Kaur and Ram Subramanian, a Mumbai-based advertising professional who has been trying to bridge the gap between Indian and Pakistani people through various campaigns.
“I had known Gurmehar’s story for a while. It is very inspiring and I thought it will be a good idea to tell her story to the world. It is the truth, and the media refused to carry it until this video went viral,” Subramanian told BenarNews.
Subramanian launched his campaign under #ProfileForPeace on Facebook last year after Maharashtra-based right-wing political party Shiv Sena, an ally of India’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) blocked a concert by famed Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali in Mumbai.
Shiv Sena’s Akshay Badrapurkar had said then: “We are completely against any form of cultural ties with Pakistan. The country is against us and kills our soldiers, so there’s no point why we should let their singer perform here.
Kaur slammed this thought process.
“We cannot dream of becoming a first world country with third world leadership,” she said, while giving examples of France and Germany, which made peace after two world wars, and the United States and Japan, which have also put their past behind.
Although the video has been largely received positively, it has faced some criticism.
“This [Kaur’s] is only a very ideal view,” Prasun Kashyap, a research fellow in the New Delhi-based South Asian University, told BenarNews. “While it is good to promote people-to-people contact between India and Pakistan, you also have to understand the politics of the two nations as well as their policies.”
The video has also received its share of harsh and abusive criticism. But Kaur said she has chosen to ignore the hateful comments.
“These are people who are just using the anonymity of the internet to say whatever they want. They’re criticizing everything, from my hair to what I am wearing. I’m not paying heed to them,” she said.
Subramanian, whose Facebook page hosts the video, said: “[The] response has been mostly positive. We are in a time and space where more people want peace and only a fraction of people practice violence.”
“This video is only a first step forward. It is meant to sow the seed of the idea of peace in the minds of people. We still need to water and nourish the idea from here on,” Kaur said.