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Ramjas College and Gurmehar Kaur row: Debate rages on freedom of speech a day after social media backlash

A day after Lady Shri Ram College student Gurmehar Kaur pulled out of the campaign against violent clashes at Ramjas College following social media backlash, former cricketer Virendra Sehwag took to Twitter on Wednesday to clarify his position on the ongoing row.

Sehwag, whose tweet on Gurmehar triggered an outrage on social media, claimed that his tweet "plain fun" and was not intended to target Gurmehar.

Sehwag had earlier tweeted a picture of him in a style similar to Gurmehar's video with a placard that read: "I didn't score two triple centuries, my bat did." 

Meanwhile, cricketer Gautam Gambhir came out in support of Gurmehar on Wednesday saying that freedom of expression is absolute and equal for all.

Not to be outdone, BJP minister Anil Vij from Haryana told ANI that those supporting Gurmehar were pro-Pakistan and should, therefore, be thrown out of India.

A war of words erupted between the BJP and the Congress and the Left parties amid hundreds of university students and teachers taking out a protest march against Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) on Tuesday. Here's a look at all that was said about the clashes on the Delhi University campus on Tuesday.

Gurmehar Kaur pulls out of campaign

After receiving rape threats, 20-year-old Gurmehar decided to distance herself from the students' campaign on Tuesday. Gurmehar, in a series of tweets, said that she would not be participating in the AISA march but encouraged everyone to go attend it in huge numbers.

Union minister Kiren Rijiju

Union minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said his remark on who was "polluting" the mind of an Army martyr's daughter was aimed at "the Leftists" and clarified that she was free to express her views. Rijiju's comment came a day after he questioned whether someone was polluting Gurmehar's mind that drew flak from the Opposition.

"I stand by my comments. Anybody who tweets on social media platform should be careful. But anyone with a contrary view should be allowed to speak. Gurmehar is a young girl and she should be allowed to speak her mind," he told reporters. "When I said somebody is polluting her (Gurmehar's) mind, I meant the Leftists," he said.

The Union Minister of State for Home said if there was any threat to Kaur, it should be dealt with sternly. "But someone is playing politics over the issue," he said. He went on to describe Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal as an "anarchist", and said that he was siding with some students who were creating turmoil in Delhi University. The minister asked the Congress to stay away from the universities as they have "no ideology".

Shashi Tharoor

Shashi Tharoor also came out in support of Gurmehar. Congress leader and author took to Facebook to share his "brief reflections on Sehwag's picture tweet responding to the words of Gurmehar Kaur". He said, "I am disappointed that my cricket hero Virender Sehwag chose to enter the wholly politicised debate over Gurmehar Kaur’s words by saying 'I didn’t score two triple centuries, my  bat did'."

Javed Akhtar

Veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar on Tuesday hit out at Rijiju for his remark against Gurmehar Kaur, calling it "grossly biased".

Mr minister , you have condemned the left by falsely accusing them for celebrating soldiers killing n not a word about AVBP. Grossly biased — Javed Akhtar (@Javedakhtarjadu) February 28, 2017

He also took a dig at Sehwag and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, who trolled Kaur after her campaign "I am not afraid of ABVP" went viral.

"I don't (know) about her but Mr Minister I know who is polluting your mind," the 71-year-old lyricist added.

Robert Vadra

Robert Vadra on Tuesday tweeted saying, "Way to go Gurmehar Kaur, for taking on the fascists."

AICC general secretary Janardan Dwivedi

Talking about politicisation of the recent events at Ramjas College, senior Congress leader Janardan Dwivedi on Tuesday said students movements these days were "pre-planned" and not "self-inspired".

Students clash with police at Ramjas College in Delhi. File photo. PTI

Students clash with police at Ramjas College in Delhi. File photo. PTI

Expressing concern over deteriorating atmosphere on college campuses across the country, he said it was not just the question of freedom of expression but more serious issue was the future of the coming generations.

"Today, the atmosphere in educational institutions in the country is being vitiated in the same manner as that in the society, which is being divided on caste and communal lines... It is not the question of only freedom of expression. It is also the question of academic atmosphere in educational institutions and the future of our coming generations as well as the larger interests of the nation that need to be kept in mind," he said.

Kanhaiya Kumar and Umar Khalid react

JNU students' leader Umar Khalid on Tuesday said, "Sehwag played for BCCI, he does not represent India. The thousands of students and teachers who came out in Delhi University today, they represent India — a vision of a New India based on equality, justice and freedom!"

"The moment you write anything against Sangh (RSS) on social media, trolls surround you like bees from all sides. But when it comes to coming out on the streets, ABVP can at most muster up 150-200 people in support of their fascist ideology," he added

Kanhaiya Kumar, who had also joined the protests against ABVP demanded "non-violence" on campuses.

Vidya Balan speaks for freedom of expression 

On the Gurmehar Kaur row, actress Vidya Balan on Wednesday said, "I don't want to say much about this. I think what we really need to do is respect people's freedom of expression. 'He said something she said something', all are right in their places. But I don't want to add anything more, everyone has the right to express what they feel."

(With inputs from agencies)

Updated Date: Mar 01, 2017 12:57 PM

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