Is Shashi Tharoor still play acting?
Dr. Vijaya Rajiva
On January 2012 Shashi Tharoor launched into a lengthy speech (more than 45 minutes) at the IIM Calcutta. It was titled 'Who is an Indian ? The Politics of Diversity'. This was vintage Tharoor. He summoned up his best acting talent (it is reported that as a student at St. Stephen's College, New Delhi, he had acted as Anthony in the Shakespearean play Anthony and Cleopatra). This would also explain his curious accent. He declaimed (as Anthony would have in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar or in the play Anthony and Cleopatra ), the Nehruvian speech of midnight August, 1947 that talked about the tryst with destiny.
By now Indians are no doubt tired of theatrics, especially since Jawaharlal had sold the country down the drain on the Kashmir question and the Chinese debacle of 1962 and further would have planted a dagger in the heart of India if Sardar Patel had not acted swiftly in Hyderabad. No matter, Tharoor droned on and hailed Indian secularism and so on. He was in full flight as he quoted figures that showed the diversity of India. This went on for more than half an hour as he spun out jokes and stories (he described himself as a 'novelist' and rightly so, it would seem !) and kept the audience entertained. He even got carried away to tell the grisly story of his friend who described someone who had been electrocuted in prison as a Chairman of the electric chair or some such infantile story. The audience respectfully laughed!
It was when he came to the word 'Hindu' that he began to stumble. First off, he said that the word was a foreign importation, without actually mentioning that it was the Persians who changed Sindhu to Hindu. He seemed uncomfortable and ill at ease with the word. He did not and could not remember (most likely because he did not know) that Sindhu occurs in the Rig Veda, that most Hindu of all Hindu scriptures. Sapta Sindhu (seven rivers) is what every Hindu knows from the get go.
Why did Tharoor stumble on this one ? Ignorance, or the desire to get away from that word 'Hindu' ? Or to downplay it? He mentioned in passing the words Hindu Rashtra as if it were a dirty phrase, once again displaying his ignorance of the Rig Veda. There must surely be many Stephanites who know their Rig Veda ! Not Tharoor it seems. Aham rashtrii sangamani vasunam said the goddess Sarasvati (I am the rashtii that moves people towards their welfare) in the Rig Veda. But it seems that Tharoor could not or did not know that the word 'rashtram' also has a respectable Vedic lineage.
He was quick to point out that while North India suffered from the point of the sword (Islam) in the south it was a different story. He mentions the lone incident of the Arab traders who came to the Kerala coast but not the murder and mayhem by the Bahmani sultans who wreaked havoc on Vijayanagar or the ravages of Tippu Sultan in his very home state of Kerala. That Vijayanagar (after treachery) was destroyed with savagery for almost a year and the ruler Rama Raya was beheaded and had his head fixed on a pole (the similar fate of Prithviraj) was not at all mentioned by Tharoor!! One could say in defence of Tharoor that he was well intentioned and was not keen on raising contentious issues, but if so, why did he invoke the Babri Masjid and the death of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002? And interestingly enough he omitted mentioning the horrific roasting to death at Godhra of pilgrims returning from Ayodhya, old men, women and children at Godhra, that was the root cause that led to the riots in Gujarat ! Or the current murders and killings of Hindus in his home state of Kerala? He mentions that his wife and he visited the sufi saint's tomb and although her family's home had been burned down in Kashmir that she did not entertain any ill will towards Muslims. That is indeed big of her !
He omits to mention the massacre of Kashmir Hindus in the same time period (she was the lucky one who escaped !) and the current terror in which Hindus live in Kashmir. Or the thousands of Kashmiri Hindus who live in tents and miserable circumstances after they were driven out at the point of the sword from Kashmir. He omits to mention the terror which Hindus in West Bengal are subjected to. The list is endless and is about contemporary incidents not medieval history.
Why this selective memory ? Why this amnesia ?
The answer is that Shashi Tharoor is still play acting. He is still the teenage Stephanite . All the world is a stage (literally!). He is in his imagination the Anthony of the Indian scene. Perhaps in more ways than one ! There is a lack of gravitas in his new found role as potential come back as a new kid on the block for the Congress. And worshipping at the altar of the worst government that free India has had to date, he needs must disown his Hindu heritage and strike a few blows against it while he can. While he denies the status of 'majority' to Hindus he has no compunctions in conferring the title of 'minority' to other communities. Witness his recent visits and talks at the National Commission of Minorities. His hero at independence had acted in a similar way! (Editor's Note: By definition Tharoor must know there is no "minority" if the "majority" is not identified !!)
Witness his contrasting his ill informed view of Hindu Rashtra with his so called recipe for diversity, another word for the bashing of the Hindu majority. He cannot accept the fact that Bharat is a Hindu country. His stage managers from New Delhi are obviously calling the shots and he is willing to play courtier. While their indifference bordering on hostility is understandable and this includes his stage managers in Kerala, it is more difficult to explain his barely concealed hostility towards Hinduism to which he pays lip service.
Is he dissembling, play acting in the larger interests of his handlers ? The answer is both yes and no. No, because of his built in immaturity from the old St. Stephen days makes him a ready accomplice in the marginalisation of Hindus and yes because he knows it has gotten him thus far with a fair amount of success and hopes his luck will hold.
At the Calccutta speech he had said : it is enough if you have Rama in your heart.
The Hindus of India can be sure of one thing: when Lord Rama goes out to battle the asuric forces our Anthony will be nowhere around to help !
(The writer is a Political Philosopher who taught at a Canadian university).