Jaipur: Senior Congress leader and former union minister Shashi Tharoor has called for taking back the idea of Hinduism from those who have "hijacked" it and expressed concern over its misuse for very narrow-minded political purposes.
Tharoor, who has come out with a book on his understanding of Hindu religion, says he is not proud of those who suggest that only a Hindu — and only a certain kind of Hindu — can be an authentic Indian.
"I am proud of those Hindus who utterly reject Hindu communalism, conscious that the communalism of the majority is especially dangerous because it can present itself as nationalist," he says.
According to the Congress lawmaker from Thiruvananthapuram, the idea for his book 'Why I am a Hindu' had been churning around his head for some time.
"I realised that this is very much part of a political agenda and I felt that one had to find a way of speaking out against it, so that was essentially the origin of the book, Tharoor told Press Trust of India at the recently concluded Zee Jaipur Literature Festival here.
"I have been concerned for quite some time about the misuse of Hindu religion, faith and identity for very narrow-minded political purposes. And particularly because I saw the twist given to the faith as being fundamentally wrong ... reducing what was actually a soaring metaphysical religion of questioning, of doubt, of uncertainty into some sort of a badge of identity that a British football hooligan would have for his team," he says.
And that was why, he adds, he felt it necessary to speak up about his faith. "As somebody realising that faith and religion are becoming important markers — political markers, cultural markers, markers of identity ..., I felt it necessary to add my voice in talking about my faith," he adds.
According to Tharoor, his book, published by Aleph, is an attempt at describing the Hindutva ideologies again in the words of its own advocates. "I am not merely commenting and attacking. I am first describing and summarising in some detail, particularly the works of V D Savarkar, M S Golwalkar and Deendayal Upadhyay, whom I particularly read. And then it is a passionate plea to take back the idea of Hinduism from those who essentially hijacked it," he says.
Asserting that Hinduism is a religion and Hindutva a political project, he says that Savarkar, who invented the term Hindutva, specifically wrote that he was not a very religious person and he did not want people to confuse Hindutva with Hinduism. "He said for him, religion is merely a subset of the larger Hindu idea which he described as a cultural idea even though others went the other way. Golwarkar, in fact, reversed it and Upadhaya anchored his entire political philosophy of integral humanism on his reading of the Hindu scriptures. So you could argue that Savarkar in fact in some ways has been overtaken by the later ideologues of Hindutva. But whatever it is, it still boils down to an explicitly political project," Tharoor says.
He also underlines the fundamental difference between the "Hindutva-vadis" and others. "To the Hindutva-vadis, India is a pure Hindu land that has been invaded, attacked, humiliated, conquered, subjugated and is now free to find its own expression which to their mind must necessarily be that of a Hindu land.
"To the rest of us, they would say we are Nehruvians, this is a land which throughout history has been influenced by various forces, various migrations, various interactions and this pluralistic nature of India gives us a multi-religious, multi-ethnic, multi-cultural society," he says.
Asked who he thinks is a real Hindu, Tharoor says, "It does not have a simple answer, precisely because Hinduism is a faith that opens itself up to such vast areas of acquiring. You cannot reduce Hinduism to a sentence as you can some of the Abrahamic faiths."
(With PTI inputs)