Is Shashi Tharoor wrong in saying that the BJP is turning India into a Hindu Pakistan? Is he wrong in saying that the BJP will change the constitution? Should Shashi Tharoor regret his statement? Should Rahul Gandhi apologise for Shashi Tharoor? Will his statements be exploited by the BJP/RSS to polarise society on religious lines? As a political activist, I fail to understand why there should be a hungama over his statements. India is a democratic society and Tharoor has every right to assess, analyse and offer his inference about the regime which is in power in India. He has not abused anybody like Hindutva forces do on a daily basis, he has simply drawn an analogy and spoken his mind. Shashi Tharoor is not only an active politician but a well-read man, an intellectual who has written many books in the past, the most recent on Hinduism.
But the BJP/RSS reaction is symptomatic of what they have been trying to turn India into since Modi has come to power. Their endeavour is to create an intolerant India where only one kind of narrative is entertained and respected, where alternate viewpoints are rubbished and killed, where diversity and liberal thought processes have no place. This narrative, if successful, will kill the very ethos of India. India is a liberal society, Hindus have been the most liberal people across the globe. They don't have a regimented thought process. Hinduism offers multiplicity of gods and a plethora of ways to worship. It offers infinite interpretations to understand the absolute truth.
If Shankaracharya offered the theory of Advait, the theory of non-dualism, then Ramanuja talked about qualified monism. If Shankar advocated Gyan Marg, then Ramanuja articulated Bhakti Marg to attain salvation. Nimbarkacharya, Vallabhacharya and Madhvacharya have their own understanding of Vedas and Brahma, the absolute truth. And all interpretations are part of the great Hindu tradition. There is no quarrel between them. Their followers are happy with each other. But it's RSS ideology which is trying to shun all and establish only one way of thinking, only one value system. They want to hijack the democratic tradition of "Hinduism" from Hindus itself, convert it into "Hindutva" and make it regimented and dictatorial. It is in this context that BJP/RSS's diatribe against Tharoor should not go uncontested.
Tharoor's analogy is right. Pakistan is not only a geographical entity, it is an idea too. It was the most diabolical idea to create a country in the name of religion. It was this idea which has made Pakistan an intolerant society, which systematically eliminated minorities. It was this idea which declared the Ahmadiyya sect not part of the Islam and persecuted its followers. It is to be reminded that in the early 1950s, when religious fanatics waged war against Ahmadis, it was the state of Pakistan which came to their rescue, crushed fanatics, put them behind bars, their leader was given capital punishment which was pardoned later. But over a period of time, the state surrendered to the whims of the radical Islam, to the orthodox clergy and now everybody is to see what Pakistan has become, an unlivable society.
In the last four years, India has taken a dangerous turn. Is it not true that since 2014, minorities are systematically targeted? Mob lynching of Muslims in the name of cow protection has become rampant. Mohammad Akhlaq, Pehlu Khan were killed because they had different eating habits, because they belonged to a different religion. Is it not true that thousands of Muslims were rendered jobless overnight by the misplaced order of the UP government? The same order could have been executed in a more humane manner if the intent was to shut illegal abattoirs.
Is it a coincidence that two central ministers have publicly met those who were accused of crimes against humanity? Jayant Sinha, a student of Harvard University, one of the most prestigious educational institutes in the world, felicitated and garlanded those who were awarded life imprisonment by the fast-track court in Jharkhand for mob lynching an Indian in the name of cow protection. And initially, he had no remorse and openly justified his act. Another minster, Giriraj Singh, met in jail those who were accused of indulging in communal riots. It is to be noted that the accused were imprisoned by his own government. The BJP is part of the Bihar government of Nitish Kumar.
Is it a coincidence that Sushma Swaraj, the External Affairs Minister, is trolled publicly because her ministry penalized a passport officer for refusing passports to an interfaith couple, and then no BJP leader defended her or condemned trolls for a week? She does not belong to the Congress or another opposition party. She is a senior leader of the BJP, she is part of the Hindutva fold. If she has become so vulnerable and defenceless in the last four years, then one can easily understand the state of affairs in the country and the plight of citizens who don't subscribe to Hindutva.
Yes, the time has to come call a spade a spade. The effort is on to make India a theological state, the Hindu Rashtra. That project was designed in 1925 when the RSS was founded, it can be achieved only by suppressing all kinds of views and ideologies different from theirs, just like what happened in Pakistan and by trampling over the constitution of India. Tharoor, you are right.
(Ashutosh joined the Aam Aadmi Party in January 2014.)
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