Bharatiya Janata Party MP from East Delhi Gautam Gambhir has defended his statement condemning an alleged attack on a Muslim man in Gurugram on Saturday. The cricketer-turned-politician faced severe criticism on Twitter for his comments. “It is easier to say the truth rather than hide behind the froth of falsehood,” Gambhir told The Indian Express on Monday.
Earlier in the day, the BJP leader called the alleged attack deplorable and sought exemplary action from Haryana authorities. Mohammad Barkat was allegedly beaten up by a group of men at Jacubpura in Gurugram. The 25-year-old was returning to his shop after offering prayers when the group accosted him. Barkat alleged that the men threatened to feed him pork when he refused to listen to them.
Gambhir’s tweet generated more than 4,500 comments. Many asked him why he was “being selective” by responding to an attack on member from a minority community. “My thoughts on secularism emanate from honourable PM Narendra Modi’s mantra ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas, Sabka Vishwas [development for all, with all, and earning everyone’s trust]’,” responded Gambhir. “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.”
Gambhir said his career as a cricketer has taught him to live in a black-and-white world. “By inclusiveness, I mean a growth that takes everyone along,” he told the newspaper. “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 Gurugram incident but it is a blanket point of view on lynchings, hatred and any kind of oppression.”
The BJP, however, has taken a different stand on the matter. Party spokesperson Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga said some people were trying to give a communal colour to the incident. “Giving every fight between two groups a Hindu-Muslim angle is politics of dividing the nation,” he said. “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.”
Senior leaders of the saffron party said many partymen in Delhi felt Gambhir “spoke out of turn, especially given that Haryana is a BJP-ruled state and Assembly elections are just months away”. A BJP leader said Gambhir should not have commented because “investigation is still under way and facts are being ascertained”.
Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari also toed the party line. “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,” he said. “People should be alert, and not fall for such things.”