By Uzma Ausaf
As Indians we are great at hero worship. Be it our very popular cricketers or even more popular film stars, we take little time in raising them to the level of heroes, even superheroes. That is why we often get reports in the media of hundreds of fans standing outside the house of Amitabh Bachchan or Shah Rukh Khan waiting for a glimpse of the superstar in Mumbai. In the past we used to read reports of fans writing to film stars with their blood. In South India, people have also built temples after film stars.
With cricketers it is even worse. Many would remember how the media raised Sachin Tendulkar to a demigod status because of his ability on the cricket field. In fact, people used to touch his feet and observe fast praying for his next century. But our film stars and sportsmen are not always worthy of so much love and adulation. The naked proof came out yet again when Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar tweeted within minutes of an attack on a religious gathering in Kerala. He tweeted, ‘Deeply saddened by the blasts in Kerala. Condolences to the affected families, and praying for the recovery of those injured.’
In isolation it appears very laudable that the ace sportsman showed concern for fellow Indians beyond the cricket field. However, the reality is Tendulkar spoke up selectively. Before the Kerala blasts, he had exercised complete silence on any other tragedy in the country. In Kerala, he may be under a false notion that the attack was the handiwork of some Muslim terrorist. Significantly, when a Christian man owed up the responsibility for the blast, Tendulkar didn’t tweet again on the subject. Why his concern for a blast in the Opposition-ruled Kerela doesn’t seem genuine is because he never spoke up when women were gang-raped, many were killed, property destroyed and places of worship attacked in the BJP-ruled Manipur. He only spoke up when violence hit Kerala ruled by the Leftist parties.
Similarly, Tendulkar didn’t speak a word on the farm laws or the farmers’ agitation in Delhi or even anti-CAA protests before that in the country. Worse as an MP he hardly ever attended the Parliament. Was his concern at a blast new found sensitivity?
However, Tendulkar is not the only cricketer to further the BJP agenda. For many years, we have had Virender Sehwag doing the same thing. All these years he has constantly promoted the BJP’s programmes and defended the ministers and MPs on Twitter. We all know how he failed to stand up for women wrestlers sitting on protest in Delhi and how he hit out against the orphaned daughter of a soldier because she spoke out against the government. Then we have badminton star PV Sindhu, cricketers Ajay Jadega and Irfan Pathan who indirectly promote the right-wing ideology with their words.
If there is anyone worse than our sportsmen in standing up for justice, it has to be our film stars. Big stars like Akshay Kumar, Ajay Devgan, Kangana Ranaut, Payal Rohatagi and Sunil Shetty, film-makers like Ashok Pandit and Madhur Bandharkar, they all tweet to show the BJP, in particular Prime Minister Modi in a positive light. Whether it is inflation or communal riots or unemployment or attacks on mosques, they keep quiet. But they always tweet whenever the Opposition parties attack Modi or his policies. They often consider questioning the Prime Minister as attacking the country. Nobody would have forgotten Akshay’s ridiculous, fawning interview with Modi where he asked him about mangoes!
Even as we criticize the Godi media for failing to do its job fairly and fearlessly, we must also understand that we have been let down by our false gods in the form of cricketers and film stars. Their talents are limited to the sporting arena and cinema. Nothing more.