Time magazine names Gurmehar Kaur in ‘Next Generation Leaders’ list

Indian student activities Gurmehar named as 'Free Speech Warrior', Lilly Singh of Canada badged 'The Superwoman of Comedy



Student activist Gurmehar Kaur named by TIME as one of its 20 ‘Next Generation Leaders’, winning the moniker ‘Free Speech Warrior’. Also in the list is Lilly Singh of Canada who was named as ‘The Superwoman of Comedy. – Photo / Grab from Time interview

The Time magazine has named student activities Gurmehar Kaur from India and Youtube sensation Lilly Singh aka Superwoman from Canada in its list for the ‘Next Generation Leaders’.

They are among the 20 names appearing in the list, an annual project that the US-based magazine started in 2014.

The 20-year okld Gurmehar was badged ‘ree-Speech Warrior’ while Lilly won the title ‘The ‘Superwoman’ of Comedy’.

“When you are standing up for something that is greater than yourself, there will be people opposing it, You just have to stay strong, keep going at it,” Gurmehar said in an interview with the Time.



Free-Speech Warrior

It all began when Gurmehar Kaur decided to raise her voice. In February, she and other students at Delhi University’s Ramjas College decided to protest campus violence involving the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, a right-wing student organization linked to the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules India. She posted a photo of herself on social media holding a placard reading, “I am a student from Delhi university. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone.”

As the image went viral, an earlier picture surfaced from an unrelated online campaign to promote peace between India and Pakistan. In it, Kaur held a placard about her father, an Indian army captain who had died fighting militants in the disputed region of Kashmir. “Pakistan did not kill my dad,” it read. “War killed him.” In the context of her challenge to the BJP-linked group, those were seen as fighting words.

Suddenly, Kaur was a target for online trolls and thrust to the center of a national debate on free speech and dissent in an increasingly nationalistic India. She was mocked by a leading cricketer and criticized by a Bollywood actor. Kiren Rijiju, a junior minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, tweeted, “Who’s polluting this girl’s mind?”

In the months since, Kaur has been targeted with verbal abuse and death threats. But still she refuses to be silenced, and has a memoir, Small Acts of Freedom, that is due to be published next year. “Why should I keep quiet?” she says. “While I never asked for it, I was pushed to the forefront. I realized that people listen to what I say. And if I have something positive to say, why shouldn’t I say it?”

To see the interview, go here.


The ‘Superwoman’ of Comedy

For proof of just how creatively Lilly Singh can make a point, look no further than “How to Make a Sandwich.” The five-minute YouTube clip at first seems to be a standard cooking tutorial, with Singh cheerfully offering advice from behind a kitchen counter. Except she’s talking directly to a commenter—who wrote that “women aren’t funny” and asked why Singh wasn’t “in the kitching [sic] making me a sandwich.” As the sandwich is dressed, he gets dressed down. Try using fresh vegetables “to make up for your expired thought process.” When you’re cutting onions, “you’ll notice [they have] layers—just like your insecurity.”

This is humor as Singh believes it should be: smart, irreverent and unapologetically feminist. It has made the 29-year-old Indian-Canadian a star on YouTube, where her sketch-comedy videos—tackling everything from relationships to racism—have logged more than 2 billion views and lured guests like Michelle Obama and James Franco. Growing up as the daughter of Punjabi immigrants, Singh says, “it was definitely embedded into my upbringing, like, ‘Indian girls shouldn’t do this’ or ‘Girls shouldn’t do that.’” Now “Superwoman,” as she’s known to her fans, presides over a multimillion-dollar brand, comprising live tours, film and TV roles (she’s slated to appear in HBO’s Fahrenheit 451) and a best-selling book.

Like any budding comic, Singh has her share of critics. But none have distracted her from her larger goal of empowering young women—not just by making them laugh but by working with groups like UNICEF and the Malala Fund to ensure that they have equal ­opportunity, especially in education. “If I can have an impact,” says Singh, “it seems like a waste not to use it to have some kind of positive influence on the planet.

To see the interview, go here.


[ASIA SAMACHAR is an online newspaper for Sikhs in Southeast Asia and surrounding countries. We have a Facebook page, do give it a LIKE. Follow us on Twitter. Visit our website: www.asiasamachar.com] 15971


Lilly Singh aka Superwoman coming to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore (Asia Samachar, 19 May 2017)

Kaur Project: Recognising and celebrating Sikh women (Asia Samachar, 2 March 2017)


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