Sport mirrors society and just like any other aspect of culture, it can act as a mechanism for both political and societal change. It does not exist in a vacuum and just functioning in isolation from what is happening around the world is definitely not how it's supposed to be.
Sportspersons are influential public figures who are likely to make an impression on the country's youth. Their stand on issues other than sports can undoubtedly influence the minds of their fans.
So, when they sit quietly or post holiday selfies during a nationwide uproar, they unknowingly tell the youth that it is probably okay not to have an opinion. That it is okay to continue living within your own walls, and not engage.
However, a few Indian sportsmen seem to have decided to make an exception. While India has found itself embroiled in the continuing uproar on issues of freedom of expression, these Indian sports personalities have come out of their comfort zone to voice their opinion.
Dhoni calls for respect to armed forces
Indian captain MS Dhoni, who also holds the honorary rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Indian Territorial Army, took to Twitter on 21 February and called for respect to the armed forces, saying that the nation is in a position to debate because of the men in uniform.
"Spl forces and commando unit's r normal ppl like u and me who r highly motivated and trained to put the interest of the nation before self. As v have this debate on freedom of speech our forces r making sure v stay in position to keep debating," Dhoni tweeted.
As v have this debate on freedom of speech our forces r making sure v stay in position to keep debating.- Mahendra Singh Dhoni (@msdhoni) February 21, 2016
Spl forces and commando unit's r normal ppl like u and me who r highly motivated and trained to put the interest of the nation before self- Mahendra Singh Dhoni (@msdhoni) February 21, 2016
Yogeshwar's patriotic poem
Indian wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt wrote a patriotic poem to criticise the alleged anti-national activities on the JNU campus. The poem was uploaded on Dutt's official Facebook page on 13 February and received tens of thousands of likes and hundreds of comments.
किन लोगों के लिए सेना के जवान जान की बाज़ी लगा रहे हैं और किन लोगों के गर्व के लिए खिलाड़ी दिन रात पसीना बहा रहे हैं pic.twitter.com/hMqKNdjxkE- Yogeshwar Dutt (@DuttYogi) February 13, 2016
In his poem, the London Olympics bronze medallist compared 'anti-national elements' to Mahmud of Ghazni and even questioned their Right to Expression when they choose to demean the country. Dutt also accused the students and their supporters of dishonouring the sacrifice of Indian soldiers, including Lance Naik Hanamanthappa - one of the 10 soldiers who died in an avalanche in Siachen earlier this month.
Dhawan bats for tricolour in varsities
Indian opener Shikhar Dhawan endorsed the NDA government's directive to all 46 central universities to fly the tricolour atop a 2017-feet tall flag mast. "My take is simple. It (flag) should be unfurled at the Universities. It (flag) is the pride of the nation. The more the merrier I would say," he said at a promotional event on 19 February.
When asked about the situation at JNU, the Delhi southpaw said: "Though you have touched upon a sensitive topic, one should never say anything ill about the country you live in."
Vijender packs a punch
India's boxing sensation Vijender Singh, who is currently on a dream run in his career, weighed in on the issue with his tweet on 17 February.
"In a country where changes in a farm's boundary, even by an inch, can lead to 10 murders, some people are mistaken that India will give up Kashmir?" Singh tweeted.
जिस देश में खेत की डोल का 1 इंच खिसकने पर 10 कत्ल हो जाते हैं , वो कश्मीर दे देगा?बहुत बड़ी गलतफहमी पाल रखी है कुछ लोगो ने- Vijender Singh (@boxervijender) February 17, 2016
Gautam gets 'gambhir'
Out of favour Indian batsman Gautam Gambhir, too, joined in the debate and urged politicians not to compromise with the country's harmony to fulfill political gains.
"Shocking videos frm JNU & Jadhavpur Uni. Grow up politicians. Dnt politicise this, get united for Mother India. Don't compromise ur country's interest to get back into power," he tweeted on 16 February.
Shocking videos frm JNU & Jadhavpur Uni. Grow up politicians. Dnt politicise this, get united for Mother India.- GGF (@GautamGambhir) February 16, 2016
Don't compromise ur countries interest to get back into power- GGF (@GautamGambhir) February 16, 2016
He also questioned the issue of Jat reservation demand and said that a soldier never thinks or demands quotas before sacrificing his life for the country.
"Wht is a point of sacrificing ur life for the country when there is demand for quota everywhere. A soldier never thinks abt quota or demand for quota b4 sacrificing his life.#respect soldiers," Gambhir tweeted on 21 February.
Wht is a point of sacrificing ur life for the country when there is demand for quota everywhere.- GGF (@GautamGambhir) February 21, 2016
A soldier never thinks abt quota or demand for quota b4 sacrificing his life.#respect soldiers- GGF (@GautamGambhir) February 21, 2016