Kohli’s quit In­dia jibe was not in good taste

The In­dian cricket cap­tain would do well to let his bat do the talk­ing

Khaleej Times - - FRONT PAGE - Suresh Pat­tali —suresh@khalee­j­times.com

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.

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