Tharoor: Hinduism being hijacked by lumpen elements

Shashi Tharoor, MP, arrives at Krithi 2018 in Kochi on Friday.

Shashi Tharoor, MP, arrives at Krithi 2018 in Kochi on Friday.   | Photo Credit: Thulasi Kakkat


“Debate getting reduced to one between Hindutva forces and Godless secularists”

Writer and parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor has equated “bigoted, intolerant un-Hindus”, and “lumpen elements” that take the cover of Hinduism to push a political agenda of violence, to the ‘British football hooligan’ who would turn violent at the negation of his standpoint.

“A small cut made by a poisoned arrow infects the whole body,” he said at the Krithi International Book Fair at Marine Drive on Friday during a conversation with journalist K.J. Jacob on his latest book, Why I Am a Hindu.

He refused to accept that Hindutva forces were fringe, arguing instead that they were very much mainstream and in a position of spreading poison from the centre. Even Sushma Swaraj, with no RSS background, wanted a ban on Fashion TV when she was handling the I&B Ministry. “If I didn’t like FTV, I would change the channel,” he said.

“Hinduism didn’t believe one size fits all. It doesn’t dictate adherence to any particular sacred text, say the Bhagavad Gita for instance, as a national holy book and those making such demands are pandering to a particular political constituency,” he said.

If Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, an agnostic, could have an open-minded and educated view of Indian culture, with least regard for interpreters of religion while being reverent to the aspects of culture, the rise of Hindutva forces had brought about a situation where the debate was reduced to one between “Hindus [Hindutva forces, actually] and Godless secularists”. That was why he, a believing Hindu, chose to put Hinduism in perspective as a pluralistic, multifaceted, and liberal religion devoid of canons and strictures.

India could not be understood without paying attention to religion. This was why Godless secularism failed to take root here. The term secular in the Indian context didn’t have its strict dictionary meaning, but it meant a coexistence of several religions.

Mr. Tharoor said the Hindutva footsoldiers, who chose to attack M.F. Hussain for painting bare-breasted Hindu goddesses, had no qualms about the Attukal deity being portrayed that way in her Shakti avatar on the streets of Thiruvananthapuram.

He defended Hinduism, saying the ancient texts had everything from the profane and the erotic to the casteist (in texts like the Manu Smriti).

“But, it is up to you to choose what you want and practise it,” he said. Pandit Nehru didn’t have to react to fringe Hindu elements such as the Hindu Mahasabha, but the contemporary times demanded a reaffirmation of the liberal, eclectic Hinduism by the faithful.

Maintaining that his book had struck a chord with similar liberal souls across the country, he said his next book, which would be explicitly political, would be timed for the general elections of 2019. It was not Hindutva that helped Narendra Modi gain 100 Lok Sabha seats over what Vajpayee had.

“The former CEO of Gujarat won it on the development plank. Mr. Modi proved himself to be an excellent salesman offering an empty package, as we have seen from his several failures in the last four years,” Mr. Tharoor said.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:09:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/tharoor-hinduism-being-hijacked-by-lumpen-elements/article22913302.ece

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