Malala Yousufzai was shot at for daring to want an education.
We stood by her side. We roared in anger at the atrocity. We said she was our hero. We said she was a strong fighter.
Then her father said that Malala will not cower, and will fight back.
We applauded his bravery, and his daughter’s bravery. And then we dedicated a day for Malala. The UN applied her example to the world crisis that gender based violence has come to be. Popular demands have risen to a feverish pitch, that Malala be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
And yet, the situation closer home to Malala is bleak.
Malala’s achievements in the face of the Taliban despotism have not been received the way they should have. On the one hand, some religious parties call the whole thing a drama, a fiasco, and some other religious parties call the attack a product of the drone attacks, hinting at a weaker responsibility of the Taliban. On the other hand, political parties and the army have supported the cause of the education of women. And then there is the third side that deems the whole event a conspiracy by the Afghan Intelligence and the US Military – a grim reminder of the difficult relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
A time can come when the world will move on, and Malala’s shooting will be but a distant memory. But, we, as a people must fight every propensity for such a time: for Malala stood for a cause, fought for a cause, and bravely stayed put when there were threats aplenty hounding her. Malala may have made the cause for women today, for the deprivation that many of her global sisters face. But Malala has left behind a legacy, an epoch making one at that. She showed the world that defiance in the face of tyranny is bleeding courage. She showed the world that one cannot be too young or too old to demand her rights. She showed the world that no one can deprive her of her courage or her will, try as they might to strike her down.
Just imagine - One young girl taking on a terror outfit that dented a superpower and wiped out two buildings in its Skyline. Awe-inspiring, to say the least.
Malala is the symbol of courage that the rest of us need to learn to have. We write, we talk, we applaud, we curse, we shout, we scream. But how many of us question? How many of us demand where we are denied, ask where it hits, fight where they dictate, and stand strong when adversity slaps us in the face and deprives us?
Eleanor Roosevelt tells you to do one thing a day that scares you the most. Malala showed you not to let that fear exist, at all.
There is a Malala in every one of us. The least we can do to truly respect what she did, and the path she carved for us in these dense woods is to fight, and keep that path sustained.
By Kirthi Jayakumar