A file photo of Shashi Tharoor
Congress MP Shashi Tharoor | Commons
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Many proud Hindus like myself cherish the inclusive nature of our faith and have no desire to live in an intolerant mono-religious state.

It must have been a slow news day.

The hysteria on our television channels yesterday over a remark I have made many times before (and tweeted in 2013) – that the BJP’s agenda of a “Hindu Rashtra”, if it succeeds in capturing both Houses of Parliament as well as a majority of the states, would reduce India to a Hindu Pakistan – was bizarre. It stretched credulity to see so many hours devoted to distorting two words and accusing their author of everything from being anti-national to anti-Hindu.

I have said this before and I will say it again: our nationalist movement was divided between two sets of ideas, held by those who saw religious identity as the determinant of their nationhood and those who believed in an inclusive India for everyone, irrespective of faith. The former became the Idea of Pakistan, the latter the Idea of India. Pakistan was created as a state with a dominant religion, a state that discriminates against its minorities and denies them equal rights. But India never accepted the logic that had partitioned the country: our freedom struggle was for all, and the newly independent India would also be for all.

On the other hand, the BJP/RSS idea of a Hindu Rashtra is the mirror image of Pakistan – a state with a dominant majority religion that seeks to put its minorities in a subordinate place. That would be a Hindutva Pakistan, and it is not what our freedom movement fought for, nor is it the idea of India enshrined in our Constitution.

This is not just about the minorities, as the BJP would have us believe. Many proud Hindus like myself cherish the inclusive nature of our faith and have no desire to live, as our Pakistani neighbours are forced to, in an intolerant mono-religious state. Hinduism, as Swami Vivekananda pointed out, teaches the acceptance of difference as a basic credo. Hindutva is not Hinduism; it is a political doctrine, not a religious one. A “Hindu Pakistan” would not be Hindu at all, but a Sanghi Hindutva state. We want to preserve the India we love, and not turn our beloved country into a Hindutva version of Pakistan.

What is bizarre about the media drama over my remarks is that no one giving air time to multiple BJP voices frothing at the mouth about my words actually asked them one simple question: “Is the BJP giving up its dream of a Hindu Rashtra?” Instead, pro-government voices have been allowed to get away with reaffirming the PM’s famous statement that the Constitution is his holy book, eliding the fact that many senior BJP leaders – from Governor Tathagata Roy to union minister of state Anantkumar Hegde – have openly affirmed that, in the latter’s words, “the BJP had come to power to change the Constitution” and that it would “do so in the near future”. RSS ideologue Govindacharya has declared that he is already at work on a new Hindutva Constitution for India.

BJP apologists point out that the government has done nothing to amend the Constitution, and others have suggested that the Supreme Court’s ruling that secularism is part of the “basic structure” of the Constitution makes the idea of a Hindutva Pakistan impossible. But the fact is that both have only been held at bay by the simple fact that the BJP has not had the numbers required to achieve their goal – two-thirds of both Houses of Parliament and half the states. Today they control 20 state assemblies and lead coalitions in two more, which means in five years or so the Rajya Sabha will inevitably be theirs. If they manage to retain control of the Lok Sabha in the next general elections, they will finally have all the elements needed to fulfil their project.

Hegde and Roy are blunt-speaking politicians with a long record of preferring valour to discretion, and they have let the proverbial cat out of the bag. The Hindutvavadis’ critique of the Constitution is a fundamental one; their idea of its flaws lies in their core belief in the idea of a Hindu Rashtra, as opposed to the civic nationalism enshrined in the Constitution of India.

The RSS sarsangchalak and ideologue M.S. Golwalkar articulated this critique almost as soon as the Constitution was adopted. India’s independence from colonial rule in 1947, Golwalkar argued, did not constitute real freedom because the new leaders held on to the “perverted concept of nationalism” that “located all who lived on India’s territory as equal constituents of the nation”.

This fundamental flaw was the same one identified by Deendayal Upadhyaya, undoubtedly the principal ideologue of the Hindutva movement today, who is honoured and exalted daily by the BJP government; the PM has instructed every ministry to hold seminars on his thoughts. India had written a Constitution imitative of the West, Upadhyaya argued, and divorced from any real connection to our mode of life and from authentically Indian ideas about the relationship between the individual and society. Upadhyaya argued that the Constitution should embody a Hindu political philosophy befitting an ancient nation like Bharat. He was clear that reducing the Indian national idea to a territory and the people on it was fallacious. In building his case for a Hindu Rashtra, Upadhyaya specifically disavowed the existing Constitution of India.

Having rejected its premise, Upadhyaya was scathing about the Constitution’s drafting and adoption: a nation, he argued, “is not like a club which can be started or dissolved. A nation is not created by some crores of people passing a resolution and defining a common code of behaviour binding on all its members. A certain mass of people emerges with an inherent motivation”. “It is”, he added with a Hindu analogy, “like the soul adopting the medium of the body”.

Upadhyaya thus fundamentally questioned the very legitimacy of the Constitution and not just the process by which it was created. For Upadhyaya, the absence of the Hindu Rashtra idea in the Constitution was unacceptable. This makes all the more curious the enthusiastic zeal with which his devotees today – from Prime Minister Modi to others below him – swear by it and celebrate every milestone in its adoption. The man who rejected the Constitution of India in conception, form and substance would be astonished to find his supposed acolytes extolling its every line and holding special commemorations in Parliament with grandiloquent speeches to mark the anniversary not just of its adoption—which, after all, is Republic Day—but even of its passage by the Constituent Assembly in a newly anointed ‘Constitution Day’. If Upadhyaya had not been cremated, he would be rolling over in his grave.

So we have heard every BJP leader and supporter on television yesterday telling us how the Modi government has stood for our constitutional democracy. This must surely imply a commitment to retain the Constitution of India, and its basic structure as defined by the Supreme Court, including secularism and minority rights. In keeping with these affirmations, will the Prime Minister himself now announce to the nation, “though I admire Deendayal Upadhyaya, I disagree with him about the Constitution”?

Somehow, I doubt he will.

Dr Shashi Tharoor 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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26 COMMENTS

  1. Mr. Tharoor’s warning is a timely one, and is deliberately being twisted and attacked by some elements with a misguided sense of fanatical devotion to one political party and it’s cult figure leader.
    Every Hindu true to the spirit of his religion and proud of its rich heritage will stand behind Mr. Tharoor’s words.

    It’s strange how virulently the attacks on any comments against the ruling regime are orchestrated, while there is total silence on the unending and utterly shameless outpourings of the ruling party’s motormouths on an almost daily basis.

  2. It is sad that Tharoor had to spell out with such painstaking clarity, what our constitution stands for and what it could morph into, in the hands of an administration that wishes to make history up on the fly.
    It’s perhaps because
    BJP/RSS stalwarts and their posse of believers/followers/supporters/democracy deniers who seem to abhor the idea of a theocratic neighbor but are deeply inspired nonetheless to follow in exactly those footsteps.
    It’s a travesty of our democracy that only Tharoor is holding forth with his views, which are no doubt held by most rational people who are unable or, what’s more scary, unwilling to defend and espouse.

  3. Sashi Tharoor always used words by digging into dictionary to hoodwink the readers of his real intent and opinion of him.Now by using simple words like Hindu Pakistan and Pakistan Hindu he created congusion about himself on the formation of Pakistan. Jinnah and Nehru wanted to become PM nut when Jinnah was denied he created Two Nation theory which was subsequently proved wrong. But Nehru was blamed for this situation not withstanding the fact that Patel was found to get the required numbers.Anyhow how Sashi missed this point is not known. In India secularism is successful thanks to the cooperation of the majority community. Inspite of this neing the fact the rants are unacceptable.It is true the constitutional amendment post Shahbanoo case by Congress with huge majority is not to be compared dince the people of India are well posted of zny changes in constitution while BJP unlike Congress party in which Sashi is an MP will not stoop low for vote bank politics.

    • Quaid e Azaam(قائد اعظم) wanted separate countries for the Muslims of the colonial entity known as British India. He worked for the Pakistan movement as this was where the majority of the Muslims were located. He worked for this cause AFTER trying for many years to work for the cause of Muslim – Sanatanum Dharmic Unity. AFTER many years of this struggle, this liberal and tolerant man came to the conclusion that if Muslims were left without a separate country, they would face a cultural extinction eventually in Dharmic dominated Bharat. In his words “Hindus are incorrigible”. He was not seeking leadership for the sake of it. He was even offered premiership of a ‘United India’ but refused on principle.

  4. 1. I wish Mr Shashi Tharoor recognises a harsh reality. The grand old party called Congress has miserably failed to move with the times; it has not won confidence of a very large section of the educated class which has slowly moved to BJP. Is it not a fact that many citizen-voters have unanswered questions about Congress’ ‘secular politics’? 2. I therefore think that if Congress leaders like Mr. Shashi Tharoor are scared of a theocratic “Hindu Rashtra:” they have to go to people and convince them that such a theocratic state is anti-democracy. Incidentally let me also say that the Leftists, and particularly the Communists, are opposed to RSS/BJP but they too have failed to counter and fight RSS ideology politically. 3 Hence, it is necessary that all those who are opposed to RSS/BJP should make serious efforts to convince our vast country’s citizen-voters that to protect our democracy, BJP must be voted out of power. In other words a majority of citizen-voters have to be convinced that establishment of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ is not good for the country.

  5. He is not a Hindu (by thought and acting ).a Who knows if he is actually Hindu? Or only manta ins a Hindu name for convenience like hundreds of others. Those who want to listen to him do so at own risk. We already have Jan eucharistic brahmin foisted by Congress now this.

  6. Interesting to good discussion. In my opinion, this debate on secularism will continue as long as the word secular is (rightly) enshrined in our constitution. As long as religions remain-and should remain-this conflict will continue. It has proliferated in practically all countries of the world.
    Only wisdom of people, as rightly observed by Shri Yathy Pattali, in his comments above, can keep the balance.

  7. Dear Shashi Tharoor,
    Swami Vivekananda once quoted his master as saying that in future there will be no religions as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other. There will be as many religions as there are minds, said Swami Vivekananda. Can you convince creeds that hold as their fundamental dogma the finality of prophethood, the uniqueness of incarnation, the infallibility of their respective scriptures, the truth of these sayings the all the knowledge of history and philosophy you possess, and with the wit and wisdom you display? You will see Hindu extremism crumbling. With all your wisdom you should quit politics and be a teacher of Hinduism to Hindus. That will be truly valuable service to the country, far better than teaching the nation a recondite vocabulary.
    With regards,
    Ramanarayanan

    ayanan

  8. Mr.Tharoor your party is an coilation partner of Muslim league for 30 years in your Home State of Kerala,most recently your party tried to create an new religion(Lingayats),your party has played all sort of communal ,regional,lingual in short votebank politics so kindly introspect.Though I agree with you that the fear that you espoused are real it should not be used to carry on with your kind of feudal politics.

  9. Ethos of a democratic state is decided by its people. India is India not becuase of the superior wisdom of people like Thatoor. They are the same people who subverted the democracy of this country and offered many apologies for it. The basic differeance between Indian Nationhood and Pakistani one is decided by the ethos of its people. A nation with 80% Hindu population had opted a secular democracy in much polorised a situation during partotion, unlike a theocratic order in Pakistan is because the cultiral ethos of Indian people are different from that of Pakistanis. India has the cultural maturity to protect its values.

  10. The effluent rhetoric of Dr Shashi Tharoor Sir not withstanding, he is still a confused man. First of all, both politics and media are eager to vouch safe for his deep eruditious commentaries on life, politics, religions, tolerance, intolerance, inclusive socio-religious way of life,etc.- the traits he thinks he preaches and lives for- as long as he does not defy his political masters and fair weather media friends. This is only partial post-truth. Further, on the one hand, he declares Hinduism is, as if nobody knew, as much an inclusive religion, as Islam, in its Pakistani ethos, is exclusive. On the other, he explicitly refuses to take a stand when ,exclusive separatists are clamouring for division of the land on religios considerations. Such confused intellectuals are not welcome not only for their own allies in politics and media, but are likely to tear away the peaceful texture of society. The good news is, most common people do not understand the likes of Dr Tharoor Sir. Hence, the majority is insulated from confused life practices of self declared intellectuals.

  11. It is not shri sashi tharoor who used the term hindu pakistan.Before him this phrase has been used in parliament and still on record by vetern communist commerade sitaram yuchary while participating in celebration of 75th anniversary of quit india movement but bjp members did not object reason better known to them because he would not have yield and expose to the extent that rss did not participate in quit india movement

  12. Hindu community needs no enemies like aueangzeb,akbar,or babar,because we have the likes of sashitharoor whose love for muslims stems from the fact that this guy from kerala ,in the left over time after chasing girls,fixing deals to make a kill in the name of sweat equity,then defend a killer tag after sunanda pushkar was found dead under suspicious circumstances,talks of hindus.We hinfus donot need such lowly creatures like sashi tharoor amongst us,he must go to pakistan

  13. Sir, while I thank you for starting the conversation about the plain-in-sight agenda for the RSS and affiliates, what you missed out is that changing the fundamental nature of the constitution should not be solely dependent on who holds the most electoral seats, but should only be decided by an overwhelming majority of voters in a referendum.

    No party should not be allowed pursue something they have no mandate for. Though if the ‘overwhelming majority’ decides something against your personal beliefs, you have my sympathies.

  14. Congress’ betrayal of its South Indian leaders is systemic and disturbing. None of its North Indian leaders have the spine to stand up to Narendra Modi and BJP. When South Indians like Mani Aiyer, Renuka Chaudari or Shashi Tharoor do stand up, they are promptly betrayed. Is Congress Mukt Bharat Congress’ own agenda or that their bigotry gets better of them?

  15. pet dogs are always behave very obedient to master , but some times occasionally bark towards to master by tilting it’s tail.

  16. Shashi is dead right. I am disappointed that the Congress leadership, instead of backing him, has cautioned him. Is this the change that Rahul Gandhi wants to bring about? If Congress lacks the courage to stand by Nehru/Gandhi ideals, then let them rename the party and make it something else. They ought to be ashamed that they want to look more like the BJP.

  17. Is there a bigger word for obfuscation ? A consolidated word for fear-mongering and a larger word for tampering with thoughts ?
    Just asking ?

    • Tharoor’s book Why I am a Hindu reveals his deep faith in Hinduism. Now his distorted stance of Hindu Pakistan, although Congress Party has disowned it, is just to get the votes of Muslims and other minority communities in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. His crooked strategy is to get the votes of Hindus as revealed in his book and also the votes of Muslims and Christians by raising the bogey of Hindu Pakistan. Tharoor is using a double edged sword for his survival by appeasing Hindus and other believers. It’s his deceptive tactics. The same strategy he has pursued in Sunanda murder case. That’s why the case is prolonging for years. Why did he take Sunanda to a hotel, instead of his residence? That’s still a mystery.
      . How long can he wear the mask?

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