Kohli’s quit India jibe was not in good taste
The Indian cricket captain would do well to let his bat do the talking
The Quit India Movement of 1942 was launched by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi at the Bombay session of the All India Congress Committee to press for an orderly British withdrawal from India. Seventytwo years later, when Narendra Modi came to power on a nationalist agenda, the right-wing leader’s out-of-manifesto priority was to hijack the Gandhi legacy from its Congress stable. When the Gandhian torchbearers within the Congress looked on helplessly, Modi also adopted other neglected independence heroes like Sardar Patel and Lal Bahadur Shastri.
At the same time, his followers in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) got carried away by their leader’s political magnanimity and launched a modern day “Quit India” movement asking all free-thinking people — writers, artists, historians and scientists — who questioned the establishment or voiced their concern over an unprecedented danger to liberal democracy, to leave the country at once. They even offered free tickets to those who wanted to exit.
“Out of Pakistan, Syria, Palestine, Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and Israel, they should disclose the name of the country where they want to go. We will arrange tickets for them,” Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi told some of the first intellectuals who tried to push back against what they called nascent fascism.
Bollywood celebrities like Amir Khan and his wife who expressed alarm and despondency over a rise in acts of intolerance faced furious backlash from Hindu organisations who took the comments as a “political conspiracy to defame India”. Gauri Lankesh, the fearless journalist who wrote against rightwing extremism, was made to “quit India” forever by suspected Hindu activists who shot her dead at her home in Bangalore in September last year.
As a cricket enthusiast, I wish not to believe India’s ace cricketer Virat Kohli is a Modi bhakt (devotee) just because he had issued a workout challenge to the prime minister, a fitness votary who engineered the establishment of International Day of Yoga by the United Nations. Nor do I wish to believe that the Indian skipper is batting for the new “Quit India” movement when he recently trolled a fan to “go and live somewhere else”.
Kohli was promoting his new app and was responding to a message by a user which read: “Over-rated batsman. Personally, I see nothing special in his batting. I enjoy watching English and Australian batsmen more than these Indians.”
After reading the comment in a video on his app, Kohli responded in cold blood: “Okay, I don’t think you should live in India then. You should go and live somewhere else. Why are you living in our country and loving other countries? I don’t mind you not liking me, but I don’t think you should live in our country and like other things. Get your priorities right.”
It was obvious that the fan message was replete with hate. The man was explicitly demeaning Indian players who had a brilliant T20 and ODI series wins against West Indies, though they were still smarting from their recent England rout. The hate message achieved what it was supposed to. Kohli was lured into attempting the “googly” and was caught in the slip by social media activists who shouted a chorus of “howzat”. Kohli, who soon found himself embroiled in a storm, tried to wriggle out with a tweet: “I guess trolling isn’t for me guys, I’ll stick to getting trolled!”
Just the other day the Indian skipper, who just turned 30, was revelling in a shower of birthday wishes and in the glory of being the fastest to cross the 10,0000-run milestone in just 205 innings. And today he is like a fallen angel with trollers digging out his past to expose the celebrity’s “doublespeak”. They now call him the “king of hypocrisy”.
“Did Kohli get married in Italy because he didn’t like Indian wedding bands, venues, and flowers? *pasta for thought*” tweeted Divya Kannan @divkan1.
Quoting one of his 2008 tweets, some wondered why he had not left India and settled down in South Africa as his favourite cricketer is Herschelle Gibbs.
Off the field, it’s no secret where Kohli’s loyalty lies. In 2016, when the Modi government cancelled 86 per cent of the country’s currency, Kohli called it the “greatest move” he has ever encountered in politics. Even if he nurses political ambitions post-retirement, which could come well after a decade, his audacity to play to the right-wing gallery with the “Quit India” call is reflective of what democratic India is fearing about — growing intolerance.
It’s heartbreaking to see the Indian skipper who represents not just the 31 percentage vote the BJP had garnered in the 2014 elections but also the other 69 percentage across the political spectrum, talk the same language as fanatic Hindu leaders like Yogi Adityanath and Sadhvi Prachi. If superheroes like Kohli are so easily hypnotised by the Modi magic and “Quit India” movement, imagine how easy it is for the saffron brigade to sway the country’s less educated masses.
In public or private life what makes a leader stand apart is the class he or she carries around. By definition, having class involves good manners, politeness, pride without showboating, empathy, humility, and an abundance of self-control. That’s precisely what Kohli is yet to earn. Kohli could have outplayed legendary Sachin Tendulkar as the fastest run-making machine but he can never match up the class of his legendary predecessor, whose sportsmanship and demeanour proved that cricket can still be a gentleman’s sport.
If Kohli still hasn’t lost all perspective, he is best advised to take a cue from Twitterati Nitin Manoharan’s (@MNINitin) well-meaning comment: “It’s best if he lets his bat do the talking coz his mouth isn’t doing him any favors.”
In public or private life what makes a leader stand apart is the class he or she carries around. By definition, having class involves good manners, politeness, pride without showboating, empathy, humility, and an abundance of self-control. That’s precisely what Kohli is yet to earn.