Gurmehar, Sehwag and Akhtar: Hypocrisy on free speech unmasked

Shivani Gupta
Shivani GuptaMar 03, 2017 | 17:03

Gurmehar, Sehwag and Akhtar: Hypocrisy on free speech unmasked

After the entire Gurmehar Kaur furore, the message that has been sent out is that we are not allowed to disagree with her and if we do so openly, we will be called trolls. Why? Because she is 20 years old, young and naive. And a martyr's daughter. We can't even imagine what she has gone through.

But while hailing her courage, the same people use terms like strong, brave, independent.


Which one is it? If she is brave and an adult I might add, can she not handle disagreement? Doesn't it sound patronising? If you have clarity enough on a sensitive issue to make a video and post it, surely you understand you will not get only "likes" on it. (Threats of any kind don't count here.)

If you are certain enough that only one side was guilty and to be blamed for the ruckus at Ramjas College, surely you should allow that side to present its case and disagree with you too? Is that not freedom of speech?

If a Virender Sehwag uses her logic to poke holes in it, he is a troll and a bully. If he had supported her, he would have been hailed. So basically you can only agree with her. Freedom of speech be damned.

And do we want celebrities to take a line or sit on the fence and be politically correct all the time? Let us make up our mind! No, we only want them to speak when we like what they have to say and when it suits our narrative!

People are openly saying, "what was the need for Sehwag to speak?" It is not your call, dammit. He will speak when he wants to. Are the double standards making you dizzy already?


And no, you can't blame him for actual abuse that came Gurmehar's way. He is not responsible for people who cowardly issue rape threats on Twitter. That would be like saying Gurmehar's point about Pakistan not being responsible for her father's death strengthens terrorists.

If she is brave and an adult, can she not handle disagreement? 

Both arguments are bogus. (Sehwag has had to since tweet a clarification, saying he was only being facetious and condemns the threats made to Gurmehar.)

And when Javed Akhtar, usually so balanced and nuanced, actually bullies and mocks sports heroes Sehwag and Yogeshwar Dutt, no one finds that problematic. Calling someone "hardly literate" to demean them, and take away their voice, is both intolerant and elitist.

Are only highly educated people supposed to opine on Twitter? Several who found Sehwag a bully, hailed Akhtar. Ask them why, and they will say Sehwag deserved it. (Akhtar has since realised his words were "harsh".)

Oh, is that how we decide who should be mocked and bullied and trolled? Who decides who deserves it after all? Why not condemn all trolling? 

This entire debate is a matter of convenience and has been so since the start of the "intolerance" fire. People's skin becomes pretty thin when it suits them. They can't even handle a little bit of difference of opinion. Even with humour or civility.


But when they want to hear something, they ask everyone else to develop a thick skin and not get offended all the time. There is no winning.

Then look at the political hypocrisy of it all. CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury became the first to drag religion into the entire debate when he parachuted to the campus to milk the controversy. He said: "Our nationalism is 'we are Indian' not 'who is a Hindu'."

Why make this about religion at all? Should he have not shown more maturity? Why no outrage over his comment to needlessly draw religious lines into a students' campus issue when it is already hot. No one asked "what was the need to say this?" Imagine if a right-winger had used religion first.

If it is about religion then let's say so openly. No judgment. We can handle it. But of course no one will. What they will do, is conveniently stay quiet about what happened to Shazia Ilmi.

There will be no marches for her being denied to speak on triple talaq at Jamia Millia Islamia. And so will continue the fight on freedom of speech.

Last updated: March 07, 2017 | 12:05
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