Facing a backlash on Twitter after describing the alleged attack on a Muslim man in Gurgaon as “deplorable” and urging authorities to act, newly elected BJP MP Gautam Gambhir told The Indian Express that “trolls and critics are not a problem” and he will “continue to live in black and white”, and that “it is easier to say the truth rather than hide behind the froth of falsehood”.
Reacting to the alleged attack on 25-year-old Mohammad Barkat Aalam, who said his skull cap was thrown on the ground while he was returning from a mosque Saturday, Gambhir, elected MP from East Delhi, first tweeted: “In Gurugram Muslim man told to remove skullcap, chant Jai Shri Ram. It is deplorable. Exemplary action needed by Gurugram authorities. We are a secular nation where Javed Akhtar writes ‘O Palan hare, nirgun aur nyare’ and Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra gave us the song ‘Arziyan’ in Delhi 6.”
The tweet generated over 4,500 comments, with several people asking why he was “being selective” by responding to an attack on a minority community member. Three hours after his initial tweet, Gambhir posted another: “My thoughts on secularism emanate from honourable PM Narendra Modi’s mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas’. I am not limiting myself to Gurugram incident alone, any oppression based on caste/religion is deplorable. Tolerance and inclusive growth is what idea of India is based on.”
Speaking to The Indian Express, Gambhir said: “Having been a cricketer, criticism is not new for me. I am used to it. So trollers and critics are not a problem. Having played sports which is governed by definite, I will continue to live in black and a white. Somehow have never liked greys, in fact you won’t find a grey in my wardrobe too. It is easier to say the truth rather than hide behind the froth of falsehood.” “By inclusiveness, I mean a growth that takes everyone along. Like our PM, Mr Modi said, ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas’. How will you win the trust of everyone if they don’t feel safe? And that too just for practising one’s preferred religion. And like I also said, my views are not restricted to Gurgaon incident but it is a blanket point of view on lynchings, hatred and any kind of oppression.”
Senior leaders in the party acknowledged that Gambhir’s comments did not go down well with a section of his partymen in Delhi, who felt he “spoke out of turn, especially given that Haryana is a BJP-ruled state and assembly elections are just months away”. A senior leader also said Gambhir should have refrained from the tweet given that “investigation is still underway and facts are being ascertained”. He said such remarks give ammunition to the Opposition to target the state government.
Officially, too, the BJP took a different stand than Gambhir, with party spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga tweeting: “Some people are trying to give a communal colour to the internal argument in Gurgaon. Giving every fight between two groups a Hindu-Muslim angle is politics of dividing the nation. In the call that was made to the police by the Muslim party, there was no reference of Hindu-Muslim. Later on it has been given a Hindu-Muslim colour.” When contacted, Bagga maintained that the incident was being given a communal colour.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari said Gambhir had reacted with “innocence” on the matter. “We believe in our PM’s motto of Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas and Sabka Vishwas. In this matter, all I can say is that police should investigate and find the truth,” he said. “However, I would like to caution people of our country that now that our party has come to power, a section of people will try to paint things with a communal angle. People should be alert, and not fall for such things.”
Delhi BJP vice-president Rajiv Babbar, who was also looking after Gambhir’s campaign, said people were reading too much into the tweet. “It is a simple tweet asking for action from the authorities,” he said.
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