Gurugram assault: BJP divided over Gautam Gambhir's remark seeking action

Party insiders distance themselves from his tweet, attribute it to his ‘inexperience’

May 28, 2019 01:45 am | Updated 03:20 pm IST - New Delhi

Gautam Gambhir

Gautam Gambhir

Newly elected BJP MP from East Delhi, Gautam Gambhir, on Monday sought “exemplary action” against those behind the alleged assault of a Gurugram resident returning from a mosque after offering prayers on Saturday.

His request, however, did not go down well with his own party. The party was seemingly split down the middle on whether the former Indian cricketer had acted out of naivete or toed the party line in sync with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s attempt at distancing himself from the comments of “some hard liners such as Pragya Thakur”.

A cross-section of party insiders, including Mr. Gambhir’s colleagues in the Parliament, either sought to distance themselves from his tweet or to attribute it to his “inexperience”. There was, however, a small section of party insiders who argued that “he had done nothing wrong” because the BJP was “not a divisive force” as some “individuals with vested interests” were “trying to prove”.

“In Gurugram Muslim man told to remove skullcap,chant Jai Shri Ram. It is deplorable. Exemplary action needed by Gurugram authorities,” Mr. Gambhir tweeted. “We are a secular nation where @Javedakhtarjadu writes ‘ओ पालन हारे, निर्गुण और न्यारे’ & @RakeyshOmMehra gave us d song ‘अर्ज़ियाँ’ in Delhi 6,” Mr. Gambhir added.

Mohammad Barkat (25) was allegedly accosted by a group of men while returning from the Jama Masjid in Gurugram on Saturday evening. He was allegedly referred to with a derogatory term, asked to remove his skull cap and chant “Jai Shri Ram” before being assaulted. The incident allegedly occurred in the Jacubpura area around 10 p.m. and the accused are still at large.

The police have registered a case under relevant IPC sections, including charges of promoting religious hatred, causing hurt, criminal intimidation, among others, at a local police station in Gurugram.

In a subsequent tweet, Mr. Gambhir wrote, “My thoughts on secularism emanate from honourable PM Mr Modi’s mantra ‘सबका साथ, सबका विकास, सब का विश्वास’. I am not limiting myself to Gurugram incident alone, any oppression based on caste/religion is deplorable. Tolerance & inclusive growth is what idea of India is based on.”

Delhi BJP chief and North East Delhi MP Manoj Tiwari issued a statement arguing that “some people” may be trying to paint the incident in a communal light. “Mr. Gambhir has reacted with his innocence on this matter. The Delhi BJP condemns such incidents in the society,” he said.

A senior party hand said, “Mr. Gambhir should take some time to observe the functioning of the party. After all, he is an MP now.”

While some of his colleagues said they were not aware of Mr. Gambhir’s tweet, others argued that he could not have “said what he said independently”. “We are all representatives of the party and it is highly unlikely that Mr. Gambhir tweeted without seeking a go-ahead from the high command,” he said.

A senior party leader advised Mr. Gambhir to “wait” for the conclusion of police probe into the case.. “It is not only wrong to judge such incidents based on whether they are motivated by hate and communal considerations or by circumstances. There seems to be an attempt to colour many local incidents communal since the BJP received the massive people’s mandate,” he said.

Another leader, however, said Mr. Gambhir has merely “stated the party’s line” in the matter. “The BJP is not a divisive, communal force as some people want to make it seem to be. What wrong has he done by tweeting what he did? Even the Prime Minister has, recently, expressed his regret at pro-[Nathuram] Godse comments made by some hard line leaders. There is nothing wrong in what Mr. Gambhir said,” the leader argued.

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