Tennis legend Martina Navratilova has said her recent tweet on the Jawaharlal Nehru University sedition row that whipped up a storm of protest was to convey her view that violence and bullying solved nothing, and not to pass judgement on India.
The 18-time singles Grand Slam champion has been trolled on Twitter following a February 22 post linking two New York Times articles critical of the Indian government and talking about the march in the Capital by JNU students to protest the arrest of their union leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who has been booked for sedition.
Navratilova tweeted the following:
What Passes for Sedition in India, -ultra nationalism easily turns into violence at worst, bullying at best. https://t.co/U5V6nvENFn— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) 22 February 2016
In an exclusive column for HT, the 59-year-old tennis great shared her point of view. Born in erstwhile Czechoslovakia in the Cold War era before migrating to the US, Navratilova said she mainly tweeted on politics.
“Having grown up under a totalitarian regime in what was a communist country (then Czechoslovakia, now democratic Czech Republic), I am pretty well-versed with what it’s like to live in an authoritarian, unfair system, where one is not at all free to speak one’s mind without serious repercussions,” she said.
“Never did I presume to know the deeper story nor was I trying to tell the Indian people what to do in their own country…”
“I merely suggested that violence and bullying don’t solve anything. I also wanted to say that was true anywhere in the world, but couldn’t fit that in thanks to the 140-character limit Twitter has,” Navratilova said.
The criticism on Twitter took her by surprise. “There was a lot of support as well but the nastiness was quite overwhelming, similar to the comments I get in the US if and when I write critical things about our rightwing politicians.”
Navratilova, a close friend of Leander Paes --- the pair has won two mixed doubles Grand Slams -- said she had the highest regard for India. However, she vowed to raise her voice for injustice. “And I will keep speaking out when I feel there is unfairness, whether it is happening here in the US, or in Kenya, or in India. Because for me unfairness is at the root of what is wrong with our world, whether it’s coming from the Right or the Left.”
The JNU sedition row that started with a protest against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru has snowballed into a huge political controversy, with the Opposition accusing the government of suppressing dissent and free speech.