Why is there such a hullaballoo over Shashi Tharoor's statement? What did he say that has the BJP/RSS so publicly pained? Why are TV channels going bonkers trying to paint Shashi Tharoor anti-Hindu? Did he really say something which is objectionable or is it another post-truth which needs no verification and authentication? I have seen and heard his statement and have not found a word which should be termed objectionable or which should hurt the sentiment of a any individual who believes in Hinduism or who is a practicing Hindu.
There is no denying the fact that Tharoor has the knack of antagonizing upholders of Hindutva or Hindutvavadis. And I am deliberately using the word Hindutva as it is distinctly different from the word Hinduism or Hindu-ness. If the latter is a cultural entity, the former is a political construct. A Hindu is one who believes in Hindu traditions and culture, who believes in the universal truth of Vedas and Upanishads but Hindutva uses Hindu religion for political purpose. Those who are demonising Tharoor are Hindutvavadis not Hindus. And there is a political reason for this. Tharoor is targeted because he understands Hindu Dharma better than many believers of Hindutva. He is targeted because he knows more about Hindu tradition than these people. His book "Why I Am a Hindu" is a testimony to his knowledge and understanding of Hindu Dharma. Hindutvavadis are scared of him because they know he can fluently quote from the Vedas and Geeta. They are scared because he is a true Hindu.
He has only said "No Hindu would want a Ram Temple built by demolishing somebody else's place of worship". He never said that the Ram Temple should not be constructed. In fact, he is forthright in his utterance. He says "... most good Hindus would want to see a Ram Temple at a site where Ram was supposedly born." The TV channels inferred and concluded that he is making a distinction between the 'good Hindu' and 'bad Hindu'. But in a democratic society, such debate is legitimate and valid too. He has not abused anyone in the name of religion as has become a practice. Those who are unhappy with him are those who have made the distinction between 'Ram-zade' and 'Haraam-zade'. Why were the Hindutva-vadis were not upset then?
Let me ask a question. Did these people get upset with Atal Bihari Vajpayee's statement after the demolition of Babari Masjid? Were they upset with L K Advani and Nanaji Deshmukh when they made certain statements after the demolition of the mosque in Ayodhya? No, they were not because they belong to their own ilk. Let me remind my friends in the RSS/BJP/VHP about what Advani had said just after the demolition. In his autobiography, "My Country, My Life", Advani wrote - "It was the saddest day in my life... I have seldom felt as dejected and downcast as I felt that day." Advani was the biggest mascot of Ayodhya Movement. It was his Rath-yatra from Somnath to Ayodhya (which was aborted at Samastipur) that created euphoria for the Ram Temple. It was his Rath-yatra which catapulted Hindutva and BJP to a central place in Indian politics and if the BJP is today at the centre, the credit should go to him. But he was not happy. Should we call him Anti- Hindu or anti-Ram?
That is not all. That day Advani even refused to eat the sweets that were offered to him in celebration. He said, "I will not have sweets today... I am feeling both distraught and helpless." Why was the biggest icon of Hindutva distraught? Should we call his this act anti-Hindu? Advani was so upset with the Babri Mosque demolition that he resigned from the position of Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. Not only this, he in fact also instructed Kalyan Singh, the then Chief Minister of UP and one of the stalwarts of the Ram Mandir Movement to also resign. It was another matter that Narasimha Rao preempted his resignation and sacked his government. Should we call Kalyan Singh Anti-Hindu?
Atal Bihari Vajpayee was also not too pleased by the turn of events. In his speech in parliament, Vajpayee did not hide his displeasure. While speaking on the no-confidence motion against the PVN Rao government on December 17, 1992, he said, "Ram Temple would not be constructed by deceit and trickery." He exhorted kar sewaks who participated in the demolition to come forward, own responsibility and face the consequences. He was very bitter. He corroborated what Advani wrote in his biography. He told parliament, "When the structure was demolished, Advani was in tears. Therefore he sent his resignation. Whatever has happened - I am upset."
Nanaji Deshmukh, one of the top leaders of the RSS, also apparently said that the demolition of Babri was unfortunate.
Advani later explained why he was upset. "We in the BJP had all along declared that our goal was to construct the Ram Temple at Ramjanmbhoomi after respectfully relocating the mosque structure and that we would like to achieve this either by the due process of law or through an amicable settlement between the Hindu and Muslim communities." So what should we call the act of demolition? I leave it to the readers to decipher. Shashi Tharoor has said what Advani said long ago, albeit in different words. But how many Hindutva-vadis will call Advani or for that matter Vajpayee or Nanaji Deshmukh anti-Hindu? Tharoor will be pilloried because it is all about politics and because he is a soft target. History will be more kind than TV anchors - of that I am confident.
(Ashutosh is a Delhi-based author and journalist.)
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