Virender Sehwag crossed the line when he trolled 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur for an old post of hers that was taken out of context.
Twenty-year-old Delhi University student Gurmehar Kaur, who was thrust into the national spotlight a few days ago after spearheading social media campaigns against politically charged student groups, #StudentsAgainstABVP and #FightBackDU, has announced that she would no longer be a part of the movements. She also revealed earlier on Tuesday that she had received death and rape threats.
The reason for her pulling out is being seen as a result of the insensitive joke that former Indian cricketer and current serial Twitter troll Virender Sehwag made, about a video that Gurmehar had created a year ago, in which the cricketer trivialising her father’s (an army Captain) death and the message of peace she had originally intended.
Over the past couple of days, the issue has seen many throw in their support for both, Gurmehar as well as Sehwag. Minister of state for home affairs Kirren Rijiju also added fuel to fire when he questioned Gurmehar’s inspiration behind her video, later retweeting Olympic medallist and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt’s second “joke” at the expense of Gurmehar. On Tuesday, he posted a meme on Twitter that said, “Adolf Hitler did not kill Jews, Gas did; Osama Bin Laden did not kill people, bombs did; and a photo of a black buck with the text reading, ‘Bhai didn’t kill me, bullets did’.” And while Randeep explained his stance on Facebook — “She has the right to protest against what she feels is wrong and it’s also Viru’s right to make a joke about it” (sic) — Sehwag has not yet said anything regarding the controversy but he is being criticised by many.
LSR backs Gurmehar
The English department faculty at Delhi’s Lady Shri Ram College for Women, where Gurmehar is a student, has also backed her in a public statement. In the note, that was signed by professors from the college, was written, “We feel that it is the bounden duty of educational institutions to nurture sensitive, responsive and critical thinking students without the fear of violent retaliation...The threats of violence and brutality that she faces are absolutely reprehensible. Responses on social media by public figures such as Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda are shameful trivialisation of the intimidation that Gurmehar faces at the hands of violent mobs whose viciousness the university has recently witnessed.”
Ajay Gandhi, Organiser, Hyderabad Literary Festival
It was condescending. The man carries a lot of following, and has a lot of social media weight... You’re picking on a 20-year-old girl because she said something a year ago, because she came out and said something in support of a very legitimate issue... that’s just not done. Today, it was reported that she’d also be leaving Delhi... is that how you deal with people’s lives? Not that he himself caused the threats, but we have to be sensitive with people.
Pritish Nandy, social commentator
I think that Gurmehar Kaur said it right and in a very dignified manner. Her message was torn out of context and it was made to look like she had other motives, which I believe are ridiculous. I don’t approve of the way Virender Sehwag joked about this issue and I think that he should be ashamed of himself for how he handled the issue. Randeep Hooda just followed suit. Still, saying she is being used as a pawn, is the kind of metaphor that is used a lot when it comes to women in politics. It implies that the woman can’t have her own opinion and is always looked upon as her husband’s wife or her father’s daughter, which is again complete nonsense. Politics has vitiated the social media, to the point that many, including myself, don’t often make use of the medium anymore, since we are quite irritated with the language of discourse and tone used. In the face of this, I think that celebrities can only be honest, straightforward and say what comes naturally to them.
Mita Vashisht, actress
A celebrity needs to be loved and judged for what they are good at. And if they go on to make irresponsible statements, their work has to be seen separately from the comments. Just because someone is popular, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are more educated or enlightened. I think Gurmehar Kaur is a very brave girl and I do believe that anybody who talks about peace has a certain kind of wisdom. There is no denying that war kills people and wars are results of mistakes our politicians make.
Kavita Krishnan, Secretary, All India Progressive Women’s Association
What I’d like to ask Sehwag is why he said this about a young girl who’s trying to cope with the loss of her father? Is that something to joke about? It wasn’t even what her entire video was about. It should be a lesson to him not to be so trigger happy on social media. Also, if he is on Twitter and is vocal, why hasn’t he said a word about the rape threats meted out to Gurmeher? To tell her that ‘whether I agree with you or not, I stand with you against these kinds of threats’? He should do the decent thing, make an apology now, and speak up against the rape threats to her, if he has any conscience at all.
What he said to her was not just a joke in bad taste, it was also a very inhuman thing to say to a 20-year-old girl who’s talking about the death of her father. Why is her father open game for anybody to make a political capital out of his death; politicians pit his martyrdom against her pain. How is that even allowed?
Mohommed Ali Shah, film and theatre personality
War only causes destruction and I admire the girl who despite knowing that Pakistanis killed her father blames the cause and not the country. It could have been China as well. She is calling for peace. And instead of concentrating on her words, we should understand the essence of her thoughts. I can’t find any sense or co-relation between her statement and Sehwag’s tweet. I wish, I had his bat and I would have scored those two triple centuries. Certainly, soldiers deserve more respect in our country but the sad reality is a cricketer’s elbow fracture concerns us more than the death of a soldier. I have seen enough bloodshed in my life while serving the army but I would still say that peace must prevail. It’s so immature to take on a girl who is trying to convey her point. My heart goes out to her.
Raj Kamal, artist and illustrator
I feel what Gurmehar said was profound and right in the broader sense, but if she had said the same thing in a much smarter way, she could have saved herself from all the harassment and trolls on social media.
I agree with Gurmehar that it’s the war which is causing all the misery and spreading hatred between countries. But when you speak of a sensitive issue like war with Pakistan and say that they haven’t killed our soldiers, some people will definitely react.
There is a difference between being wise and being stupid. If you go to China and talk about the rights of Tibet, you will face a backlash. We live in a country where we don’t talk openly about sex and a movie like Lipstick Under My Burkha is banned by censor board for its content. Do you think the right wing will tolerate this? Today, if you ask US President Donald Trump about having a building exclusively for Mexicans, how do you think he would react? Or, if you start praising meat in front of a person belonging to the Jain community, do you think you will be spared?
Gurmehar acted a little immaturely in stating her point. Even I was planning to do a series like, ‘I am an artist but I didn’t draw my sketches, Photoshop did it’. But then, I am not Sehwag the world doesn’t know me. People like him have a huge following and whatever they say is going to make a huge difference. But we tend to never go beyond the celebrity status of these people and forget that they too are human beings. Isliye, Sehwag kuch bi bolega toh log yahi bolenge ‘wow Viru paaji kya bol dia. I think we should not be afraid of openly calling our celebrities a jackass.
Neeti Palta, comedian
Anyone punching down others is not acceptable. Everyone is entitled to express their opinions. I am a daughter of a fauji and I second that girl. War kills people and they take place because policies fail. It has become a trend that any woman who wishes to speak her mind in public is trolled, mocked and threatened to shut up. When did hating any country become a symbol of nationalism?
It's what you have inside that counts. Why we are forced to be a certain kind of nationalist? And for those two celebs who mocked the 20-year-old girl, why don’t they go and pick a fight with someone their own size?
Sorabh Pant, Stand-up comic:
I completely support Gurmehar for speaking up and I think that it was commendable that she took the prerogative to protest against violence. We should be respectful of her ideas and taking that one slide in isolation from her entire video is completely wrong.
That being said, I think Virender Sehwag and Randeep Hooda also have a right to disagree or joke about her opinion. Where it got ridiculous for me, was when Kiren Rijiju called her an antinational or when Randeep said that she is being used as a pawn.
People should be able to say what they want without taking on death threats, threats of violence and rape. Whoever made such threats should be publicly shamed and debarred from politics altogether.