NEW DELHI: Union Sports Minister Vijay Goel today jumped to the defence of sportspersons under fire for their comments criticising DU student Gurmehar Kaur, saying the country is proud of them and they shouldn't be treated as "illiterates".
"PLEASE DON'T CALL OUR PLAYERS ILLITERATE. You're a champion in your field & they are champions in their own field. India is proud of them!(sic.)," Goel tweeted.
His tweet was apparently in response to veteran lyricist Javed Akhtar's comment, "If a hardly literate player or a wrestler troll a pacifist daughter of a martyr it's understandable but what's wrong with some educated folks."
The 20-year-old Kaur has been subjected to intense trolling on the social media over her stance against RSSbacked students body ABVP and a video campaign advocating peace between India and Pakistan.
Former cricketer Virender Sehwag, Olympic medalist Yogeshwar Dutt, wrestler sisters Geeta and Babita Phogat and their father Mahaveer Phogat took to the social media to question Kaur's views, attracting ire of the noted lyricist.
Dutt had also slammed Akhtar's remarks saying, "You may have authored poems and stories but even we have made history for India on the world stage ".
"It is not necessary to be highly educated to be a patriot or be a martyr or for that matter have an opinion on something. I felt right I said it, it has nothing to do with my education," he told reporters.
Earlier in the day, cricketer Gautam Gambhir came out in support of Kaur even as Sehwag defended himself after facing a backlash for ridiculing her.
Taking a strong stand, Gambhir asserted that mocking or "ganging up" on Kaur, a martyr's daughter, for her views on the "horrors of war" was "despicable". Freedom of expression is absolute and equal for all, he tweeted.
Gambhir's views are in stark contrast to Sehwag's opinion on the issue.
In a series of tweets, Sehwag defended himself, claiming that his social media post in reply to Kaur was an "attempt to be facetious" rather than one to bully anyone over their opinion, adding that agreement or disagreement was not even a factor.
"She has a right to express her views and anyone who threatens her with violence or rape is the lowest form of life. Everyone has a right to express their views without being bullied or threatened. Gurmehar Kaur or the Phogat sisters," Sehwag tweeted.
Gambhir, in his statement, said he has utmost respect for the Indian Army, however, the recent events have left him with a sense of disappointment.
"We live in a free country where everyone is entitled to their opinion. If a daughter who lost her father puts up posts about the horrors of war with the intention of achieving peace she has all the right to.
"It is not an opportunity for everyone to show how patriotic they are and gang up on her to mock her. She is entitled to her opinion just as every other citizen is.
Everyone may or may not agree with it but mocking her for it is despicable," Gambhir said.
Kaur, a student of Lady Shri Ram College, affiliated to Delhi University, is the daughter of Captain Mandeep Singh who was killed in a militant attack in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district on August 6, 1999, four days after Pakistani troops withdrew from Kargil.