With increasing debates around Hindutva in India, Shashi Tharoor, Indian Member of Parliament and author of a bestseller, ‘Why I Am A Hindu’ says that while Hinduism is a religion, Hindutva is a political ideology. He adds that his book aims to highlight the difference between the two concepts. Supreet Aneja reports. 

In an interview with Pervaiz Alam of Cine Ink, the London based digital platform for news and views, Mr. Shashi Tharoor, who has also been a minister in PM Manmohan Singh’s cabinet, differentiates between the BJP’s Hindutva and his own pitch for celebrating being a Hindu.

Mr. Tharoor states that in the first part of the book he has explained about ‘Hinduism’ in which he was born. He cites the example of Swami Vivekananda’s message of Hinduism, who represented India and Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religion in Chicago in 1893 where he stated that that Hinduism is a religion which has taught the world, tolerance and universal acceptance.

“I would repeat what Vivekananda has said that the way different rivers meet together in a sea, spiritual quest of any kind leads you to same destination, same divinity,” he says.

Mr. Tharoor further adds that Hindutva is a political ideology. According to him, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, the pioneer of Hindutva ideology, himself, never practiced true principles of Hinduism but he propagated the idea that Hinduism is a racial identity. He states that it was the influence of racial movements all over the world, for instance, Adolf Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy and Francisco Franco in Spain.

Talking further about the politics of race, Mr. Tharoor says that such ideology of racial identity means that one particular race is superior and other human races should not be a part of the country.

He also emphasises that the meaning of Hindutva described in his book are not his words but the quotes of Savarkar, M.S Golvalkar, the former chief of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), right-wing, Hindu nationalist organisation and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, co-founder of political party Bharatiya Jana Sangh.

“At the end, I have, mentioned that it is time for the Hinduism followers to take back their religion from Hindutva,” says Mr. Tharoor.

When asked about the former President, Mr. Pranab Mukherjee attending an RSS event, Mr Tharoor says that when a person becomes the President of a country, he does not belong to any party. When asked if he would in future attend any such event organised by the RSS, he laughs and replies that he hasn’t become the President yet. He adds that if a member of RSS visits his office, he would definitely strike a conversation with him.

When further probed if Congress is trying to reclaim soft Hindutva in an attempt to woo the majority Hindu population of the country Mr. Tharoor denies doing that.

“We in the Congress Party would like to give a simple message that we are Hindu too, and why can’t we go to a temple with a sense of pride,” says Mr. Tharoor, Lok Sabha MP from Congress Party, representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency in India.

Concluding the interview he says, “We are not attempting to going forward as to be called soft Hindutva, we are trying to neutralise this bigoted message coming from one side.”

He further states that as they (PM Modi and his team) want to talk about development, he would like to ask them, “How’s your ‘vikaas’ (development) doing? Where are those ‘achhe din’ (the good days) that you promised?”

Tharoor’s Hinduism celebrates pluralism at its best.

An author, politician, and former international civil servant, Shashi Tharoor straddles several worlds of experience. Currently a second-term Lok Sabha MP representing the Thiruvananthapuram constituency and Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs, he has previously served as Minister of State for Human Resource Development and Minister of State for External Affairs in the Government of India. During his nearly three-decade long prior career at the United Nations, he served as a peacekeeper, refugee worker, and administrator at the highest levels, serving as Under-Secretary General during Kofi Annan’s leadership of the organisation.


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