A campaign criticising the ABVP, started by the daughter of an Army captain who died fighting militants in J&K, has drawn sharp reactions from several BJP leaders, including Union ministers M Venkaiah Naidu and Kiren Rijiju, who told her not to “abuse the motherland”. Lady Shri Ram College student Gurmehar Kaur, 20, had posted a photo on Facebook of her holding a placard in which she said she was “not afraid of ABVP” and that every student of India was with her. The photo was a response to last week’s clashes in North Campus.
On Monday, Rijiju, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, posted a series of tweets, asking, “Who’s polluting this young girl’s mind?” “Some people say they need freedom in India. Listen to those people taking shelter in India after facing torture in neighbouring countries,” he wrote. He also said that “freedom of expression is not a license to shout anti-national slogans in campuses. Criticise the government but don’t abuse the motherland”.
In an apparent reference to an earlier video, in which Kaur had held up a placard saying ‘Pakistan did not kill my dad, war did’, Rijiju wrote, “A strong Arm Force prevents a war. India never attacked anyone but a weak India was always invaded… Everyone has right of views but she said Pakistan didn’t kill our brave martyr and India should shun war. India never perpetrated violence.”
BJP general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya told The Indian Express that “there cannot be any debate on nationalism”. “No one in the country should support those who raise slogans against the nation. Everyone should stand against it. If anyone still wants a debate on nationalism and if they are not happy with this country, they can leave this country and go to their favourite nations,” he said.
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BJP MP from Mysore Pratap Simha tweeted a Facebook post that put Kaur’s photo next to Dawood Ibrahim’s. Talking to The Indian Express from Karnataka’s Kodagu district, Simha said, “Is she in her senses? I fully respect the sacrifice her father made for the country. But how can she give a clean chit to Pakistan? If her father was alive, he would have slapped her.” At a press conference in the evening, Naidu said that “certain misguided sections are trying to mislead the young population and create social tension”.