Congress MP Shashi Tharoor | @ShashiTharoor/twitter
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Anything you say on Ram Janmabhoomi, triple talaq, Sabarimala, or Pakistan can and will be used against you by BJP to polarize the electorate on communal lines.

We are blessed with a ruling party today that believes in the power of the Big Lie – the Goebbelsian formulation that a lie can go halfway around the world before the truth can put its boots on. I have been a favoured target of the technique: I say something, my words are twisted or deliberately distorted, and the resultant straw man is assailed by a phalanx of spokespeople, party leaders and even ministers. And an obliging media gives their falsehoods a field day.

It happened again this week, after I had spoken at the Hindu’s LitLive festival in a dialogue with the cerebral Gopalkrishna Gandhi. In response to a question on Ayodhya from a gentleman who appeared to be a Hindutva supporter – and therefore someone who needed a direct response – I said“As a Hindu, obviously, I am conscious that a vast majority of my fellow Hindus believe that that was the specific birthplace of Ram. For this reason, most good Hindus would want to see a Ram temple at the site where Ram was supposed to be born. But I also believe that no good Hindu would have wanted that a temple be built by demolishing somebody else’s place of worship.”  

Also read: ‘Misquoted’ by media, BJP on Ram Temple, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor fuels controversy

These words – which can be checked against a video recording of the event — were promptly twisted by the BJP into a false claim that I had divided my co-religionists into “good Hindus” and “bad Hindus” and asserted, absurdly, that good Hindus did not want a Ram temple at Ayodhya. I had manifestly said no such thing.

The mass hysteria that followed, with no fewer than nine television anchors devoting their evening discussions (and the best part of their days) to this completely fraudulent “controversy”, could only have happened in the debased environment that passes for news in India. The BJP knew what they were doing: they were using the Big Lie to attack the Congress party in the lead up to the Assembly elections in three Hindi-heartland states where the Ayodhya issue was expected to have an emotive appeal.

This is why, though I stand by my words, I now realise that in today’s India I should never have uttered them. Our media climate is one in which truth is no defence. It no longer matters what you say, or what you intend; it only matters what your political enemies can claim they heard. If your words can be twisted to mean the opposite of what you said, so much the better. People can then be whipped up into that much more of a frenzy against you.

The cynicism of the BJP’s attempts to polarize the electorate on communal lines means that anything you say on Ram Janmabhoomi, triple talaq, Sabarimala, or Pakistan can and will be used against you to further their divisive agenda. And the media, driven by an unprincipled and unethical quest for TRPs and traffic, will all too willingly be complicit in serving the ruling party’s malicious ends.

It makes no difference to the BJP that I was echoing what their own leaders had said at the time of the demolition of the Babri Masjid. L. K. Advani wrote that “It was the saddest day in my life… I have seldom felt as dejected and downcast as I felt that day.”

Also read: Mohan Bhagwat’s idea of India is not a thali of identities but a khichdi: Shashi Tharoor

Atal Bihari Vajpayee, declaring “I am upset,” said in parliament that the “Ram Temple should not be constructed by deceit and trickery.” He exhorted those who had participated in the demolition to come forward, take responsibility for their actions and face the consequences. Advani spoke for both when he explained that “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.” We all know that is not what happened. Are Advani and Vajpayee not “good Hindus” to those BJP spokespeople and TV anchors who frothed at the mouth all day Monday?

Indeed, Vajpayee had put my case best in a famous poem extolling his pride in being a Hindu, which ended with these lines:

कोई बतलाए काबुल मे जाकर कितनी मस्जिद तोडी?

भूभाग नहींशतशत मानव के हृदय जीतने का निश्चय।

हिन्दू तनमनहिन्दू जीवनरगरग हिन्दू मेरा परिचय!

[How many temples did we go to Kabul to destroy? We never sought territory, only wanted to win humanity’s hearts and minds. That’s the Hinduism I recognize.]

If Atal Bihari Vajpayee had heard those claiming to speak for the party he had sought to build as the epitome of much that is good about Hinduism, he would have realised there is no place in today’s India for the values and ethics of which he was so proud.

Also read: Shashi Tharoor: A ‘Hindu Pakistan’ wouldn’t be Hindu at all, but a Sanghi Hindutva state

So, I should not have spoken. I should have recognized that our political discourse has been coarsened by opportunistic popular media to a point where constructive comment is whipped up into a “controversy” to increase ratings, with scant regard for the truth. We have become a democracy where well-meaning friends and well-wishers tell me I should not speak because I will never get a fair hearing. My words, they say, will be twisted to hurt the Party I serve, and thereby the values and principles I am in politics to protect. I lament that this is what democratic debate has been reduced to – and that I have given unprincipled and cynical politicians an opportunity to trash it, and me, once more.

The author is a Member of Parliament for Thiruvananthapuram and former MoS for External Affairs and HRD. He served the UN as an administrator and peacekeeper for three decades. He studied history at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and International Relations at Tufts University. Tharoor has authored 17 books, both fiction and non-fiction; his most recent book is ‘Why I am a Hindu’. Follow him on Twitter @ShashiTharoor.


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12 Comments Share Your Views


  1. Bari Bari baaten likhana chhore ke batao tumhari agali premika kaun?rp jise tumane badh karane ka sonch rakhkha hai.

  2. Iam really perplexed by the ignorance of vast majority of anchors in the main stream media. They find pleasure in fooling the masses by deliberate false hood. The view by Shri Tharoor is the majority view. There is no better hindu than Tharoor who is wedded to hindu culture. One require a minimum knowledge to appreciate and enjoy the scholarly presentation by this great learned man. It was vividly presented by shri. Astutosh in his reply to media twisting Taroor’s speech. As for me Hinduism is not violent and but teaches tolerance. A corrupt and biased media is dangerous to our nations existence.

  3. Does Sashi Tharoor,by connotation,say that those who built a mosque at the place where Lord Sreeram was borne were bad Moslems? If that is what he would like to say why this circumlocution?

  4. Shashi Tharoor ji. India is not a place where you can put forward your personal opinion particularly if you are a politician either in the ruling party or in the opposition. The other side will twist your comments to suit their agenda and the media is ever willing to oblige. Why you left the UN job and came here? UN should have been a better place for intelligent people like you, in no way India.

  5. Mr. Tharoor!
    You have been a diplomat and know it very well that meanings of sentence is taken from your intent. You are well educated and speak/ write great English, but in a country of over a billion there are many educated people and they understand what your intention is. Every body is not Pappu. You as a political party decide to what to utter at what time. Let me remind you and your stoops that you are a habitual Hindu hater following Sonia and Rahul. Did you forget your statements of Hindu Pakistan and Hindu Taliban? Probably yes, but people did not. Did you forget that your party office bearer and congress workers (in your state) publicly killed a cow on the street, distributed and ate raw meat and celebrated? Did you forget that your president Rahul Gandhi had said that Hindus are bigger danger than LeT? Did you forget that you all created a Big Lie of Saffron ( Hindu) terrorism? Did you forget about senior leaders Aiyar and Khursheed going to Pakistan and asking Pakistan govt. to help congress removing Modi? Did you forget that Aiyar and CongressI journalist Vinod Sharma on record meeting separatists in Kashmir and criticizing Indian armed forces? You did Mr Tharoor because you all are given tasks to complete but your ‘cattle class’, we the people of India do not forget anyt5and see the things in totality and find your intention. You are a bigger ‘Lier’ than all.

  6. It’s pride to be part of a secular India propounded by our constitution but today we see none of those principles spoken of except by balanced politicians which Mr Tharoor given his background most definetly is one.
    His experience gives him that headway in a world in transition.Evil has to be rooted out by truth he does it with facts so necessary when most Indians seem blinded by false promises and devious insidious propoganda by our esteemed leaders.
    Being apolitical personally and in the minority I respect Hinduism for its eclecticism and philosophy of life doing yoga and meditation myself being a trained yoga teacher but women friends taking up against the supreme court order about Sabarimala shocked me as they turned rabid. This is not the India of my dreams but what Mr Tharoor writes about in his book I am a Hindu. .Religion and state do not make good bedfellows in a democracy we claim to be but now am not sure.

  7. Why avoidable innovative stories comes in the mind? If you have plenty of time, organise an educational trust and serve in the Hill areas where students need good education and training.

  8. We know Sir. Every time you utter something, you have to give justifications. That is the country we live in. But these words help in making the country we would want to live in. And the Mr. Manmohan Singh has previously said go true for you too – History will be kinder to you !
    And India has people who listen before they judge.

  9. As a person who worked in five post war countries and has seen what a biased media, controlled by extremists and unprincipled persons or groups, driven by lies and the pursuit of power can do to undermine democracy and stability, sow intolerance and hatreds culminating in destruction of the intelligentia, persons of integrity, and any legitimate voices of concern or opposition, I am deeply troubled that these tendencies are so much in evidence in the world’s largest democracy, known at one time for its tolerance of difference–that was the beauty of India.

  10. Mr. Tharoor, we also do not believe in glorifying a part of history that was brutal. If your party believes that rape, destruction, forceful conversions is ok, that shows how much you’re ready to stoop for the minorities. Is everyone an Indian? Yes. Do we all have rights? Very much. But does secularism always mean getting trampled over for nothing, just cause they’re a majority? No. And that is unfortunately what your party has always stood for. I’m glad to see you’re all finally shaken up, because you finally see Hindus to be a potential vote bank. But leaving politics aside, pls do treat everyone in the country equally. That goes for the BJP too

  11. A senior politician cannot have a “ personal opinion “, least of all express it in public. Nor is there much point in saying later that I was misquoted. Issues pertaining to religion and identity are being churned by certain people for electoral gain. Anything that would give them more raw material is best avoided.


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