Education rights activist Malala Yousafzai has invited wrath on Twitter for her comments on the on-going lockdown in the Kashmir valley. The Nobel Peace Prize winner expressed concern over how students in Kashmir “have not been able to attend schools for more than 40 days,” in a series of tweets. She urged the UN to work towards peace in the region and “help children go safely back to school.”
Isn’t that what we all want? Peace in the valley, and things to start moving towards normalcy for the residents of the valley, especially the children? So then why have the 22 year old’s comments offended so many? Is it because of her nationality, which makes us see her gaze as tinted, when it comes to the matters of Kashmir? Is Malala being played into taking a political stand, and speaking up in a matter where her opinion doesn’t belong? Or is it because her concern seems to be oblivious to the plight of children in her own native country? Or perhaps is it because when it comes to Kashmir, there is simply nothing a person can say, which will not invite them ire from one or more corners of social media?
In the last week, I’ve spent time speaking with people living and working in #Kashmir – journalists, human rights lawyers and students.
— Malala (@Malala) September 14, 2019
- Malala Yousafzai has asked the UN to work towards establishing peace in Kashmir valley.
- She expressed concern over reports of detention and imprisonment of students in the region.
- Should Malala be speaking at all on the Kashmir issue?
- Mustn’t she be raising questions instead of adding more comments to a convoluted narrative?
A lot of people are of the opinion that Malala should stick her forte, that is the education rights of girls, and not wade into international politics.
Since she is from Pakistan, many are of the opinion that she is either being forced or brainwashed into buying the narrative of distress, to project a hostile image of India internationally. This is what one of her tweet says, “I am deeply concerned about reports of 4,000 people, including children, arbitrarily arrested and jailed, about students who haven’t been able to attend school for more than 40 days, about girls who are afraid to leave their homes.” And yes, one sees concern for kids in the valley in it, which is consistent with the agenda that Malala endorses. However, should she have spoken about the detainment of people, purely based on reports, whose authenticity is being questioned?
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Malala also wrote that it took a lot of work from a lot of people to get the stories of Kashmiri girls to her because of the communications blackout. So when is quoting a girl from the area in her tweets, did she talk to her directly? If so how did she made that happen considering the communications blackout? If not, then can she trust the authenticity of the narratives handed out to her?
Then again, before she tweeted about this, Malala was being trolled on Twitter for not taking a stand on the Kashmir issue, where the education and well-being of millions of girls is on the line. So what does the 22-year-old do? What can she write which will please everyone and not earn her social media ire?
At the end of her thread Malala writes, “I am asking leaders, at #UNGA and beyond, to work towards peace in Kashmir, listen to Kashmiri voices and help children go safely back to school,” and if this is what we all want, then why have her tweets outraged so many people? I guess being a Pakistani national one expects her to tread very carefully, and to ensure that she doesn’t dabble in the murky political tug of war between Pakistan and India, due to her global stature. Then again, before she tweeted about this, Malala was being trolled on Twitter for not taking a stand on the Kashmir issue, where the education and well-being of millions of girls is on the line. So what does the 22-year-old do? What can she write which will please everyone and not earn her social media ire? Nothing. No matter what Malala would have said she would have had to face the wrath on social media. Why don’t you speak about the atrocities being committed against girls and women belonging to minority communities in your native country? Why did you have to take sides in a political issue? How could you not raise this issue despite claiming to be an educationist? It’ll never end.
However, one does wish that the tweets were more lucid, offering clarity over how Malala got these quotes from the valley which is in a communication lockdown and why she chose to believe the reports alleging arrest and detainment of students. We would rather have her raising questions around the reports of lockdown and detention, and demanding transparency, instead of readily embracing them and adding to a convoluted narrative, where it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fiction. Infact, that should be the call of action for all of us who genuinely care about Kashmir. Raise more questions and demand that Kashmiris are given the freedom to tell their stories in their own voices. Any narrative coming to us from a third party is bound to get tampered because sadly, we all are not on the same page when it comes to this issue.
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.