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‘In rejecting the idea of Pakistan, India never accepted that religion determined nationhood’

  • Published at 10:52 pm November 9th, 2019
Shashi Tharoor_Opu
Shashi Tharoor Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Shashi Tharoor speaks on ‘India against itself’ on the final day of Dhaka Lit Fest 

Shashi Tharoor can fill up an auditorium anywhere from Oxford Union in the UK to Abdul Karim Shahitya Bisharad hall in Dhaka. The always-impeccably-dressed politician and writer appeared for his last session at Dhaka Lit Fest yesterday, as the three-day festival came to a close. 

Talking to Professor CR Abrar on ‘India against itself,’ Tharoor said his vision for a secular society transcends the concept of tolerance. As he did many times before in interviews documented on videos and now gathering hundreds of thousands of views on Youtube, Tharoor defined tolerance as “I am right, you are in error. But I will magnanimously indulge you in the right to be wrong.”   Whereas acceptance would be “I believe I have the truth, you believe you have the truth. I will respect your truth, please respect my truth.”

Delivering his lines in the charming and self-assured way, as he always does, the Indian politician held the interest of his audience, many of whom were standing or sitting on the floor of the packed auditorium for over an hour. 

“The divide and rule succeeded all too well,” announced Tharoor about the British rule That, he says,  gave rise to the bitter mistrust between the Hindus and Muslims in the subcontinent. 

Tharoor said the divide was not along ideological lines, but rather on one very simple question: should or shouldn’t religion be the determinant of nationhood. For Jinnah, the answer was ‘yes.’ 

“But the other set of people Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Badsha Khan of NWFP all said, ‘No, our struggle is for everybody and the country we create must be for everybody.’ And in this tussle you ended up with the idea of India and the idea of Pakistan which are fundamentally incompatible,” said Tharoor. 

That's why, Tharoor said, the ruling BJP’s idea of making India a Hindu rashtra “will be a fundamental negation of the original idea of India.” And if now India claims a Hindu state, it will be “the ultimate triumph of Muhammad Ali [Jinnah].” 

Talking about the NRC in Assam, the widely criticized process initiated by the ruling BJP government to register citizen in order to prove citizenship, Tharoor said that he is optimistic and has an “intrinsic faith in the decency of the Indian people.”

Even though the BJP won with an increased majority in the last elections, Tharoor said, it is still won against the wishes of 63% of the Indian people. “As long as the opposition is divided, the BJP will prevail,” said the politician. 

But the more extremist elements of their “agenda,” said Tharoor, will still have to reckon with the fact that those still don’t have the support of the majority. 

The discussion between Prof Abrar and Shashi Tharoor covered a number of different issues from India’s past to the present, but nothing  related to India Bangladesh relations was discussed. 

Tharoor ended the session criticizing the Indian government’s lock down of Kashmir saying, “if they can do this to Kashmir, they can do this to any Indian state.”