Mum about Dalit Lives, Vocal about Black Lives. Hardik Pandya is Just Another “Woke” Indian Celeb

Social Commentary

Mum about Dalit Lives, Vocal about Black Lives. Hardik Pandya is Just Another “Woke” Indian Celeb

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Hardik Pandya scored a phenomenal 21-ball 60 against the Rajasthan Royals on Sunday. But what’s making headlines is what he did after getting to his half-century. The Indian all-rounder took a knee and raised his right arm in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Mumbai Indian’s skipper Kieron Pollard got up from the dugout and raised his right arm in support of the Indian all-rounder. It was a powerful moment of solidarity on an issue that has united large parts of the world.

In June, Darren Sammy had linked racism with the Indian Premier League. When he was playing with the Sunrisers Hyderabad, he alleged that he was called “kaalu”, along with Sri Lanka’s Thisara Periera. Everyone around would start laughing and since he was a teamman, he never questioned it. “Now, I realise it was degrading, I will be texting you guys and I will ask you as to when you called me with that name, did you all mean it in any bad way or form?” Sammy said in a powerful video message posted on Instagram in June.

Sportspersons have been vocal about racism since the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer in May earlier this year. English Premier League players have been taking a knee before kick-off in every game.

Three-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka wore masks at the US Open with names of Black men and women who were killed by the police. “I feel like the point is to make people start talking,” she said when asked about it in a post match interview.

Formula One great Lewis Hamilton has been vocal on the issue of racism, even publicly questioning a rival team. “We’ve seen Red Bull’s mechanics take a knee, which is great. But publicly, as businesses and as teams, you look at Ferrari, who have thousands of people working with them – I’ve heard no word from Ferrari saying they hold themselves accountable. We need the teams to do that. Everyone needs to pull together,” he said.

While many have praised and cheered Hardik Pandya for taking a stand, there has also been criticism directed towards him for staying mum on issues that are close to home. As one user on Twitter asked, “Dear Hardik Pandya, have you said anything about how there are ZERO Dalits & Adivasi cricketers in India? Have you said anything about the caste atrocities committed against us? Change begins at home.”

Bollywood stars – Priyanka Chopra and Kareena Kapoor – have also been called out in the past for taking stands on political and social issues pertaining to the US predominantly but not speaking up on issues related to caste or religious discrimination back home. There is no risk attached in India in criticising Trump or supporting BLM, but perhaps they don’t want to risk a backlash by taking a stand against controversies in India.

It is precisely what makes many superstars in the West stand out – for using their celebrity status to influence positive change within their countries.

Let’s hope Hardik Pandya looks closer home. There’s no dearth of issues to take a stand on.