The greatest irony of life is that everybody hates hypocrisy but continues to be a hypocrite. The same goes for the right to freedom of expression. No one likes his voice muzzled but stoops to slandering the opinion he dislikes. Up till 3 February 2021, they revered Sachin Tendulkar as the ‘God of Cricket’, now they are questioning his merit for the Bharat Ratna. Some of them poured oil and ink over his cutout, while others expressed regret for supporting him in the past.
Why did things come to such a pass? What did he do to invite derision? On 3rd February, Sachin Tendulkar posted a tweet with hashtags ‘India Together’ and ‘India Against Propaganda’. He expressed solidarity with his motherland after the External Affairs Ministry launched an offensive against the social media campaign, led by international public figures like Rihanna and Greta Thunberg, that targeted India.
What Sachin called for in his tweet
The cricket maestro called for unity, tweeting, “India’s sovereignty cannot be compromised. External forces can be spectators but not participants. Indians know India and should decide for India. Let’s remain united as a nation.”
Sachin Tendulkar was not alone among celebrities to express his loyalty to the nation. From legendary Lata Mangeshkar to Bollywood actors Akshay Kumar and Ajay Devgn, and sportspersons Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, scores of big names took to social media urging the people to remain united. But only the cricket maestro was handpicked for vilification by both — netizens and politicians.
And the critics crossed the red line
Had the criticism remained in the ambit of disagreement and disapproval, it would have remained a fine balance of differing opinions under the right to freedom of expression. But they crossed the red line in savaging Sachin Tendulkar selectively and smearing his poster with black oil.
He is a national hero, a ‘crown jewel’ of the country. He didn’t deserve that. It is saddening to hear a senior politician like Shivanand Tiwari saying that Sachin did not deserve India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna. It must be depressing for the youngsters who worship the master blaster that the Congress leadership hasn’t bothered to condemn the act of its youth members attempting to blacken Tendulkar’s poster in Kochi.
Why can’t Sachin also have a right to speak his mind? Doesn’t Article 19 of the Indian Constitution clearly state that every citizen has the right to express his views, opinions, belief, and convictions freely by mouth, writing, printing or through any other methods’?
Essentially, under the same fundamental right, the farmers have been lodging their protests against the farm laws at the Delhi borders for the last 73 days. And under Article 19, their right to freedom of expression remains intact till it doesn’t affect public order among other prerequisites.
It’s up to Sachin to speak or not to speak
Amid this barrage of rage against Sachin Tendulkar, questions are being asked about his silence over previous controversies. Questions like why didn’t he speak up on the Citizenship Amendment Act or National Register of Citizens, why did he remain silent on lynchings and communal riots? But again, the answer lies in the same argument: he has the right to freedom of speech and the right to choose a subject to speak.