The essential nature of India is still inclusive and that essence cannot be denied indefinetely. In the coming months, Indians will have to brace for unpleasantness as the ruling dispensation could stoke communal tensions for electoral gains, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said on Sunday.
Mr. Tharoor was in conversation with Gopalkrishna Gandhi at The Hindu Lit For Life Dialogue 2018 on the topic ‘India: Issues and Opportunities.’
He said, “I think we have to brace ourselves for some more unpleasantness in the months to come because there has been a correlation, in the not so distant past, between the advent of elections and the stoking of religious passions, communal rioting. That’s indeed my worry.”
While a vast majority of Hindus believes that Ayodhya was the birthplace of Lord Ram, no good Hindu would want to see a Ram temple built “by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship,” Mr. Tharoor said.
Responding to a question during the third edition of The Hindu Lit for Life Dialogue and lecture series, Mr. Tharoor said he, as a Hindu, was also very conscious that a vast majority of Hindus wanted a Ram temple to be built at the site.
Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal, said one of the key issues in India was the role of independent, autonomous institutions, which are facing great danger of subversion and co-option.
Mr. Tharoor said he had no problem with any of the appointments (to central institutions) provided the appointees are qualified.
“But it appears in many of these cases, the only qualification that these appointees possess is loyalty to a particular cause, in particular the RSS, and their lack of any other academic pedigree casts doubt on the fitness to the office they have been appointed,” he said.
The Congress leader said nothing could be more embarrassing than the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University asking for an Army tank to be installed on the campus to instil feelings of patriotism, which is “the most appalling” decision to have been taken by a VC.
A recent announcement that anyone earning a salary from the UGC may not publish any article critical of the government was a blatant attempt at censorship by a government that has no respect for freedom of expression, he said.
Mr. Gandhi asked the Congress leader, “For every major disappointment with this government, we can find a shining precedent in UPA-2. How can you reconcile this dichotomy that we must oppose what we must oppose now, but also own up for past mistakes?”
Mr. Tharoor responded that the Congress, as a party, was ready to admit its mistakes.
Giving certain examples, he added, “It is a party that imposed the Emergency that has become one of the best custodians of democracy.”
Dr. Nirmala Lakshman, Director, The Hindu Group and The Hindu Lit for Life, said, “At a time when core democratic principles on which this republic has been founded are under assault, when divisiveness and sectarianism are blatantly supported by those in positions of authority and when intimidation and violence are used to silence and stifle dissent, it becomes imperative especially for us in the media to highlight and discuss these trends and to speak truth to power.”
Following the discussion, the shortlists for the best Indian literary fiction and non-fiction work were announced.
Half the Night is Gone by Amitabha Bagchi, A Day in the Life by Anjum Hasan, All the Lives We Never Lived by Anuradha Roy, Requiem in Raga Janki by Neelum Saran Gour, Poonachi by Perumal Murugan (Translated from Tamil by N. Kalyan Raman), The Aunt Who Wouldn’t Die by Shirshendu Mukhopadhyay (Translated from Bengali by Arunava Sinha) were the works shortlisted in the fiction segment.
In the non-fiction segment, a new addition this year, Interrogating My Chandal Life by Manoranjan Byapari, The Bengalis by Sudeep Chakravarti, Remnants of a Partition by Aanchal Malhotra, Indira Gandhi: A Life in Nature by Jairam Ramesh and The Most Dangerous Place by Srinath Raghavan, have made it to the shortlist.