First of all, I must thank the author Sahana Singh who has summarised Shashi Tharoor’s understanding of Hinduism succinctly with a tinge of humor. The title of this article is taken from her famous tweet. In fact, this tweet inspired me to write this article.
Tharoor’s book is politically motivated
Shashi Tharoor’s bestseller ‘Why I am a Hindu’, is a politically motivated book rather than one on that is a spiritual journey that intends to explore Hinduism. He has written a book which intends to aid the Congress’s push for ‘soft Hindutva.’ His presentation of Hindu faith is filled with cherry-picked references. His book is more inclined towards criticizing ‘Hindutva’ ideology and ‘Mob -lynching’ Hindus as he himself has said in an interview. If terror has no religion, then other crimes should not be seen from the religious angle alone. Thus, his propaganda has come under criticism from many quarters.
Tharoor doesn’t know basics of Hinduism
I was first introduced to Shashi Tharoor’s understanding of Hinduism in his book ‘The Elephant, The Tiger and The Cellphone’. In this book, he dedicates a few pages to the topic of Hinduism in his chapter titled ‘Hinduism and Hindutva: Creed and Credo’. Here he writes.
So I have had no difficulty in saying openly that I am a believing Hindu. But I am also quick to explain what that phrase means to me. I am not a ‘Hindu fundamentalist’ : I see Hinduism as uniquely a religion without fundamentals. We have an extraordinary diversity of religious practices within Hinduism, a faith with no single sacred book but many.
Let us first understand that there are diversities in all religions. Muslims are divided within themselves as Shias, Sunnis, Sufis, Ahmadis, etc. Christians are also divided between Protestants and Catholics. Buddhism is also having Hinayana, Vajrayana and Mahayana differences. Jainism has divisions between Shwetambaras and Digambaras. Thus, diversity is not a unique thing about Hinduism alone.
Next, Tharoor says that Hinduism doesn’t have any fundamentals. I totally disagree with this. The fundamental concept of Hinduism is Dharma i,e, righteousness. Ahimsa, Satya, Purushartha, etc and all other concepts are a subset of this core concept. Tharoor ignores this very basic fact. Since his foundation itself is weak, the structure he builds on it crumbles down in the eyes of an informed Hindu. This reminds me of the Malcolm X’s quote :
If you don’t stand for anything, you will fall for anything.
The Congress party and Mr. Tharoor stand for nothing. Therefore they will fall for anything. I wouldn’t say that Tharoor has the sole objective of grabbing political power, but I am sure that the sole objective of the Congress party has been exactly that. When I examine what Tharoor said in a program on NDTV, it amused me.
If Tharoor believes in ahimsa, he should have criticised those who slaughter cows. He must have criticised those who slaughtered the harmless animal in his home state and made a video out of it. But he focuses only on mob lynchers and thus, falls under the category of people who selectively criticises political opponents, and ignore crimes done by secular population. Of course, I don’t support mob lynchers. I don’t support non-vegetarianism either, because, I embrace the concept of ahimsa completely. This coherence in thought process is missing in Tharoor. My thoughts on this topic are best expressed by the philosopher J Krishnamurthi in his book “The Impossible Question”
If you yourself had to kill the animal which you eat, and saw the ugliness of it, would you eat that animal? I doubt it very much. But you do not mind the butcher killing it for you to eat; in that there is a great deal of hypocrisy.
Tharoor is obsessed with Golwalkar, Savarkar, and Hindutva.
The emphasis that one has given to certain topics can be gauged by the number of times a word is used in a written work/speech. When I search for the word ‘Hinduism’ in Tharoor’s book, Kindle gave me 444 results; ‘Upanishad’ – 65 results; ‘Veda’ – 103 results. ‘Gita’ gives just 45 results. A search for ‘Satya’ and ‘Ahimsa’ gives 7 and 9 results respectively.
But a search for politically loaded words like ‘Hindutva’ gave 213 results; Modi gave 46 results; Savarkar gave 52 results; RSS – 34. ‘Golwalkar’ – 65 results. ‘BJP’ gives 71 results. One can see that the emphasis on RSS and BJP is quite significant in his book. In fact, 150 pages of the book are dedicated to political propaganda. Is Tharoor’s understanding of Hinduism heavily affected by its politics? The fact that Savarkar and Golwalkar occupy more space than ‘Satya’ and ‘Ahimsa’ in his book raises important questions about his intentions.
His obsession with Savarkar and Golwalker is quite evident. His final chapter is titled ‘Taking Back Hinduism’, which sounds like an Islamist calling back his fellow men to ‘true Islam.’ The left has quoted some extremist or objectionable quotes of these two figures to push their agenda. But it is not accompanied by the vile and communal propaganda run by Muslim League and Jinnah during the run-up to partition. Their ideas of ‘Hindu Rashtra’ were born because they wanted to safeguard Hinduism and Hindus from the violent and destructive march of Islamic extremism. Thus, whatever objectionable things they have written must be seen in a historical context.
Writings of Golwalkar and Savarkar should be read in historical context
Tharoor doesn’t mention anything about Muslim League’s vile campaign for the formation of Pakistan in his book. In fact, he blames Hindu Mahasabha for the growth of Muslim League. It is a joke because, Hindu Mahasabha was not successful in elections unlike, Congress and Muslim League. How can Muslims be afraid of a party that failed politically? Muslim League managed to unite Muslims as a political force, but Hindu Mahasabha did not succeed. Also, what is wrong if Hindus decide to become a political force in modern in India?
Tharoor is a pawn in revival of ‘Soft Hindutva’ strategy
Pick a random Hindu today and ask him about Golwalkar and Savarkar and ask them if they know who they are. They will fail to answer the question. In fact, I myself haven’t read their books in spite of being a BJP supporter. Most voters of BJP don’t support lynching or violence. Yes, we already know we are tolerant. We have corrected ourselves throughout our history. The job of liberals is to weed out bad aspects of all religions, not Hinduism alone.
So, why is Tharoor out to ‘Take Back Hinduism’ from those who have taken it away from the misguided liberals like him? The answer is clear. People are fed up with Congress party’s appeasement politics. They are losing election after election. Therefore, the party is reviving the dubious ‘soft Hindutva’ strategy of this party. For that mission, they have deputed the task to the good-looking, glib and suave Tharoor.