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Twitter humour can sometimes open a can of worms. Especially if you are a famous cricketer with more than eight million followers. Virender Sehwag, former batsman for the Indian men’s cricket team, on Sunday chose to mock the 20-year-old daughter of a soldier who died in Kargil because of her campaign against student violence.
‘I didn’t score two triple centuries,’ says the placard on Sehwag’s joke post. ‘My bat did.’
The text is a direct response to 20-year-old Gurmehar Kaur’s campaign against the right-wing Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad’s violence at Ramjas College in Delhi. Kaur had changed her profile picture to include #StudentsAgainstABVP, but the popularity of her campaign also led viewers to a silent video she had made last year, calling for an end to state-sponsored conflict from India and Pakistan. “Pakistan did not kill my dad, war killed him,” she said.
While Sehwag was also lampooning the placard-holding trend which has taken over Facebook and Twitter, his joke also specifically mocked this message from Kaur. And he quickly got appreciation from actor Randeep Hooda, who has half a million followers on the platform.
The humour, especially since it made light of Kaur’s message about her father’s death, did not go down well with everyone.
When called out on it, however, Hooda insisted that Kaur was a “poor girl being used as a political pawn”. He also insisted that it “reeks of political usage of mans child who died defending the line drawn,” and then reverted to saying it was “just very witty of Viru” to crack his joke.
So, in addition to Sehwag making fun of the death of the Kargil soldier, Hooda then went on to take away Kaur’s ability to think for herself and insisted that she was just a poor girl being used for political aims and anyway the whole point was just the cricketer’s joke, no matter its sensitivities.
Kaur herself decided to respond to this, insisting that she is no political pawn, following which Hooda retreated to the position that he was both against student violence and yet didn’t want the “young girl’s thoughts” to be politicised.
And then Union Minister Kiren Rijiju jumped in, again explicitly criticising Kaur’s remarks by asking, “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind?’ followed by a confused statement about strong Arm Force and weak India.
The responses from Rijiju and Hooda fall prey to the basic fallacy that only one stance, presumably questioning the government or the ABVP, is explicitly political and moreover that “young girls” having political thoughts is a bad thing.
Hooda, in fact, complained that Kaur’s post “reeked” of an attempt to politicise her father’s death, when the reverse argument – that one must not question the government or the army because soldiers are dying at the border – does not amount to a politicising India’s military. War, and its casualties, are always political. Hooda’s insistence that it ought not to be is as insensitive as Sehwag’s joke. Rijiju’s “weak India” comment, meanwhile, has no real grounding in history.
Kaur, meanwhile, said she has received rape threats in response to her campaign, which will no doubt spread even further now that a Union Minister has stepped into the fray.