Ramjas clash: What’s so gross about Sehwag’s tweet? On tolerance we must practice what we preach

The intolerance debate is getting farcical for sure. What’s so gross about Virender Sehwag expressing his view on Gurmehar Kaur? If she is entitled to her opinion on the Kargil war, then the former Test cricketer is free to have his own view too. Why react so sharply to it?

 Ramjas clash: What’s so gross about Sehwag’s tweet? On tolerance we must practice what we preach

Virender Sehwag. AFP

Let’s break it down logically. That she is the daughter of Kargil martyr Captain Mandeep Singh is not the central point in the entire controversy; the fact that she has a view on the ABVP is. If we are trying to be sympathetic to her for her father’s role in the war, we are not doing justice to her as an independent individual or a student with a free opinion. The scope of the debate expanded in an unnecessary direction when people started talking about the placard she carried last year. It said: ‘Pakistan didn’t kill my father, war did’. Sehwag’s response – ‘I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did’ – is a fitting witty response to that.

If the debate was limited to her placard on Facebook, saying ‘I am a student of Delhi University. I am not afraid of ABVP. I am not alone. Every student of India is with me’ it would have been within the context. There was a clash between the members of the ABVP and the AISA over the invite to Umar Khalid for a seminar in Ramjas College and reactions, even aggressive ones, from both sides on social media and elsewhere were expected to flow thick and fast after the incident. In our hyper-expressive times, this is par for the course.

The debate clearly went in the wrong direction. Now, she is exposed to nasty attacks. BJP parliamentarian Pratap Simha has compared her to underworld don Dawood Ibrahim and minister Kiren Rijiju has wondered who was ‘polluting’ the young student’s mind. It might get worse as the debate intensifies. Simha, on Facebook, said: “At least Dawood Ibrahim did not use crutches of his father’s name to justify his anti-national stand.’’ The point is the martyr and the Kargil war should have been kept out of the discourse.

Now, why crib if Sehwag has his own take on the matter? Just because he is a former cricketing superstar, is he supposed to keep silent on controversial issues? By implying this we are reinforcing the very intolerance we are complaining against. Perhaps it would have been fine for many had he supported Gurmehar in his tweet. The truth is for long we have been dismissive of the other view. Now that it has started asserting itself, we are feeling insecure.

That has been a big problem with our Left-liberal tradition. It has hardly been tolerant of or polite to the other view. Worse, it has even refused to acknowledge any criticism in a friendly manner. Ironically, it is the very accusation its adherents have been making against the Right groups. It shows in the reaction to Sehwag’s tweet. It feels bad when the young student is compared to someone like Dawood – the Right-wingers have certainly made the political discourse unpalatable with their habitual nastiness.

But Sehwag’s remark did not amount to being uncivil or follow the general trend of Right wing talk. The Left-liberals surely can take a bit of wit and humour even if it does not please them. They must look at the topic of intolerance with fresh eyes and fresh minds. So far it was open space for them; now they have to make space for the other view too. They have to accept the new reality.

For Sehwag, he should go on tweeting happily. So long as he has wit on his side, he need not bother about being Left, Right or Centre. Gurmehar can keep her good fight on without taking it out of the context.

Updated Date: Feb 27, 2017 20:45:16 IST