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‘Arab women orgasm to Shaheen Bagh Mughals’, BJP MP Tejasvi Surya can’t resist controversy

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File photo of BJP leader Tejasvi Surya
File photo of BJP leader Tejasvi Surya |
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Bengaluru: Lok Sabha MP Tejasvi Surya, 29, is once again in the news, this time for a five-year-old tweet where he quoted Tarek Fatah, a Canadian journalist of Pakistani origin who is known to criticise radical Islam, on the repression of women in the Arab world.

Quoting a 2015 interview of Fatah published in Swarajya magazine, where he discussed the expectations of reform in West Asia in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, Surya tweeted on 23 March that year, “95 percent Arab women never had orgasms in last few hundred years: Tarek Fatah.”

The tweet, which also surfaced ahead of Surya’s bid for Parliament last year, went viral this time after several prominent people, including Dubai-based businesswoman Noora Al Ghurair, sought to call him out.

Surya has now deleted the tweet, but it is far from the only brush with controversy for the BJP leader, who is one of India’s youngest MPs.      

In the past, Surya, a lawyer by qualification, has described the critics of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as “puncture wallahs and illiterates”. 

Just earlier this year, he took a swipe at the Shaheen Bagh protest against the CAA by saying the Mughal raj would return if the “majority community” was not “vigilant”. 

But he has been more or less unflappable through each controversy, making no bones about his support for the cause of Hindutva.


Also Read: How I unlearned my Islamophobia one step at a time


‘An early interest in politics’

Born on 16 November 1990 in Bengaluru, Surya is the son of a retired IAS officer and a schoolteacher. He is a trained Carnatic musician who describes himself as an avid reader, a history enthusiast and a “core believer in Hindutva, the inclusive philosophy that is the core of Bharat since its ancient times”.

While his parents have no political background, Tejasvi is said to have been heavily influenced by his paternal uncle, Basavangudi BJP MLA Ravi Subramanya. As a child, he attended RSS shakhas.

Now a practising lawyer at the Karnataka High Court, Surya served the state BJP in multiple capacities, including as state secretary of the Yuva Morcha and spokesperson, before making the national leap. 

His duties today include playing an active role in the BJP’s national social media team. An active member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), Surya owns and runs an NGO called Arise India, which works in the field of school education. 

He also co-founded the Centre for Entrepreneurial Excellence, an organisation that runs projects related to education and entrepreneurship. In 2017, he was selected by the British High Commission to participate in a “young leadership programme” conducted in the UK. 

Friends and associates who have known the young leader since his student days said he had developed an early interest in politics.

“He has always been very focused on achieving something big and making a difference to his country,” said Sandesh Prasannakumar, a former classmate of Surya from his pre-university days. 

“Unlike many of us who were carefree during college days, he concentrated on building a career in politics.” 

Gagan Nandi, another former classmate, said Surya had “exemplary debating skills and was highly inspired by Swami Vivekananda”. 

“The name of his NGO Arise India was inspired by the scholar’s teachings. His parents encouraged him… however, like every other concerned parent, they were wary when he announced his decision to enter politics,” he added. “They were later convinced.” 

Surya is quite popular on social media, with nearly 4.9 lakh followers on Twitter as of Monday evening. 

Credited for his organisational skills, he was one among the BJP leaders behind the ‘Mangalore Chalo’ rally in September 2017, which saw party members make their way from Bengaluru to Mangaluru to protest against the alleged killing of RSS workers in the Dakshina Kannada region. 

“It was through Arise India that he showed his creative skills,” said Gagan. “When the Sri Rama Sene was running a campaign against celebrating Valentine’s Day, Surya said we should celebrate it by saying ‘I love my country’,” Gagan added. “That’s when we knew he would make an effective leader.”

In the Lok Sabha, Surya represents the Bengaluru South constituency, which was a stronghold of former union minister Ananth Kumar until his death in November 2018.

Ahead of the 2019 elections, when the BJP started looking for a candidate for the seat, many thought Kumar’s widow Tejaswini Kumar would be the front runner for the seat. 

B.S. Yediyurappa, who was then the state BJP chief, even announced her candidature. But at the last minute, the BJP central leadership handed the nomination to Surya, who won the election with a thumping majority. 


Also Read: Hindu, Muslim NRI groups pan ‘escalation of Islamophobia’ in India after Tablighi incident


Brush with controversy

Surya’s brush with controversial statements has continued since before his brush with national politics.

In June 2018, after the BJP lost the Jayanagar assembly bypoll to the Congress, Surya tweeted that it was because of “the complete consolidation of Muslim vote”. He then called on the BJP to “‘really’ become a Hindu party”.

In March 2019, he said people who are not with Modi “are strengthening anti-India forces”. The statement created quite an uproar but, when this reporter asked him about the statement, he stood his ground and said he found nothing wrong in it. 

When the Tarek Fatah tweet came into limelight last year ahead of polls, he sought to dismiss the criticism by saying he was merely quoting a statement made by the journalist.

At the height of the anti-CAA protests, Surya addressed a pro-CAA rally at Bengaluru’s Town Hall, where he said it was the “uneducated, illiterate, and puncture-wallahs who were against the CAA”. At the time, he had clarified that his statement was metaphorical and not intended to demean anyone’s profession

In February, while speaking about the Shaheen Bagh protest, he said the “Mughal raj is not far away if the majority community is not vigilant”.

In a 27 March 2019 tweet, Surya was named by a woman as part of the #MeToo campaign, but she later deleted her tweets and social media account. Surya had refused to comment on the matter, saying he knew the woman and, “as a gentleman, it was his duty to respect her words”.

In March last year, he secured an injunction from a lower court in Karnataka, which prohibited 49 media outlets from publishing “defamatory and derogatory” content about him. However, in April 2019 the Karnataka high court set aside this “gag order”.  

He is also opposed to the idea of women’s reservation in Parliament, which was part of the BJP’s manifesto in 2014 and 2019, and made his opposition clear on Twitter.


Also Read: Lockdown may contain Covid-19, but it can’t curb the virus of Islamophobia in India


 

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India

Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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