Congress MP and former union minister, Dr Shashi Tharoor, is ready, yet again, to take on the monolithic ideas of India and Hinduism through his latest book, The Battle of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian.
In this candid interview with The Quint, Tharoor responds to many of the oft-repeated charges levelled at him. To begin with, Tharoor states that he is extremely patriotic and his rejection of British nationality—which he’s entitled to by birth—is a testimony of that. He also makes a case for his faith—Hinduism—and explains how there is no contradiction in being a good Hindu and being a good Indian.
Tharoor has often been accused of taking advantage of his faith for political gains when it suits him. He responds by asserting that he’s a practising Hindu and he likes to keep his faith private unless there are expectations from his constituents to partake in community events.
Sounding a siren of caution, Tharoor also says that the BJP-RSS agenda of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ instils fear in minority communities and the government and the RSS must initiate a dialogue to assuage concerns.
He also says that advocating inclusiveness from a podium is not enough if words are not backed by action on ground.
Citing the role of Muslim shepherds in Kashmir during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, Tharoor poses a counter-question: “Do Muslims in Kashmir feel that same sense of belonging today?”
Tharoor also responds to the charge of intellectual and religious superiority (not vocabulary!) by stating that he’s not only a practising Hindu but also makes efforts to read and understand its philosophical tenets by studying old and new analyses and debates. He also states that the RSS wants to make Hinduism depart from its original principles of private deity-devotee relationship and inclusiveness by mimicking Abrahamic faiths.