Shashi Tharoor

‘Hinduism’s suitability for the modern world lies in many ways in its recognition of non Dogmatism and uncertainty’

Good Hindu Dr. Shashi Tharoor in ‘Why I am Hindu’ pg 287

  ‘I am all for women empowerment but the issue is of sanctity. The entry of two women inside the premise of a temple shrine is an unnecessarily deliberate and provocative act.’

Bad Hindu  Dr. Shashi Tharoor on Sabarimala

The second remark by Dr. Tharoor came at a time when women all over Kerala had formed a 620 km long human chain to protest religious patriarchy and violent unconstitutional protests by the right wing and supporters of even the Congress party. Consequently, two brave women for the first time entered the temple. Their acts of liberation are ‘provocative’ to the liberal mind of Dr. Tharoor, and ‘Naxalite’ according to another elected politician from the BJP. Though Tharoor believes that one legend can’t be the final ordained word of God yet he has succumbed to the poltical necessity of these vitriolic times: regressive and radical religious outlook.

His father Chandran Tharoor  said that Indian democracy is a hypocrisy. Indeed it is, because of its politicians who engage in politics of convenience. Tharoor was reminded of this, when the ruling party turned down his private member bill to decriminalize homosexuality to shelve the majoritarian (heterosexual and religious) wrath. He has, in his book went on to illustrate the irony of how an unelected judiciary scrapped the notorious section 377 of the India Penal Code while an elected government undermined and suppressed the rights of a sexual minority.

The bigger and out of the book irony is Tharoor’s political patriarchy borne out of electoral convenience that undermines the same Apex court’s verdict on Sabarimala, whose word Tharoor celebrated on 377 and the BJP on Triple Talaq. He has stood up to his father’s word and let the hypocrisy of our politics remain intact in his own actions. Tharoor in a way has “non violently” yet ideologically sided with the radicals who deny women their place in the society. This is unarguably the same force that he publicly criticises and warns of.

His words are painful. Had a ‘bad hindu’, as Mr. Tharoor calls all the proponents of radical Hindutva made this remark, I would not have been irked so much. Dr. Tharoor is a self proclaimed ‘good hindu’ and now he merely seems to be experimenting with softcore political religiosity. “Good” enough to write a book on the nuances of hinduism, ills of hindutva and why hinduism is the faith of his choice- ‘Why I am a Hindu’. The Hinduism that Tharoor advocates in his book stands for anti-casteism, plurality, secularism and gender justice citing the religious noble heads of the past like Vivekananda. In the very introduction of the book Tharoor has quoted a hymn from the Rig Veda that questions the Creator. He adores the line, ‘Maybe He does not know’!


 Shashi Tharoor has ignored how his advocacy of the Temple’s tradition sidelines women and their struggle against the patriarchal shackles of the tolerant utopian society his book talks of. Tharoor may not know but still in many Hindu households, even in the metropolis of Delhi, women are not allowed to the kitchen and temple area during their menstruation days because of similar legends and traditions.  The Sabarimala verdict may have given a sense of respite to them, had it been implemented in its true spirit. He has ignored how religion has been discriminatory for women and, therefore the attempts to change this tradition is anything but ‘unnecessary’.

When, men like Tharoor propel social taboos in the name of culture and faith, we can’t expect any change of mindset. We get angry when the world calls us, ‘The most unsafe place for women’. However we let our social institutions maintain subtle religious misogyny as a cultural norm. Dr. Tharoor’s flawed theocratic opinion fails the democratic aspirations of this country. Social ills, despite the religion they are associated with, must be viewed as ills and not ‘traditions’. When the world wants to garland Dr. Tharoor as a bastion of liberal thought and the best of public intellectuals in India, he must adhere to the principle of equality enshrined in the constitution and progressive theology celebrated in his own book. Mr. Tharoor must revisit the following excerpt:


In the book, I find Dr. Tharoor has a ‘liberal mind’ and a ‘secular heart’. Why could Asiya Bibi of Pakistan not get justice in an unsecular Pakistan, was the question that saddened and anguished our Media. Their top court’s verdict could not be implemented because of islamist fanatics. We, the secular people of India, used this opportunity to mock Pakistan and its inability to implement the court’s order.  We conveniently forgot Sabarimala and the statement of Amit Shah (and now Mr. Tharoor) inspite of our state’s failure to upheld the verdict.

We also forgot the Padmavat row where despite the court’s order some right wing groups vandalised cinema halls and created an unpleasant nationwide law and order menace. We have no answer to the question- what will happen if the court gives judgement in favor of Muslims in Ayodhya? Dr. Tharoor must recall his Hindu Pakistan comments and understand their gravity in relation to his current affinity in politicisation of spirituality. What distinguishes Tharoor as a politician is his faith in liberalism, internationalism and apoltical religiosity.

I want to seriously recommend  Mr. Tharoor to carefully read his own book: Why I am a Hindu’. He has contradicted his own written word in practice. He has ridiculed and unsubscribed to his own faith in what according to him is the most cardinal fact about the Hindu religion: ‘The greatest truth to the Hindu is that which accepts the existence of other truths’. I want the ‘Good Hindu’ Shashi Tharoor to tell the ‘bad Hindu’ Shashi Tharoor that relating purity with Gender is itself an impure thought.

Mohammad Alishan Jafri, second-year journalism student at the Delhi School of Journalism. You can read me here and find me on Twitter as @AsfreeasJafri

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  1. All types of radicalism are developed to control people and their money. Shashi Tharoor, here, may be supporting a system that is so comfortable that in the complacency of adherents they get snarled, if not hung by the neck, then suspended between a high level of humanity as taught by the Veda and a forgetfulness of ones own humanity – for not having been made aware of it’s true value, because we are losing our memory of it – which loss of memory becomes evident in the depths of the class and caste subscriptions, today, which is what Islam and the Veda ideally seek to address fearlessly.

    But, sadly, with all the fundamentalism here and there, political exploitations by people who call themselves Muslims and Hindus, alike, but are just heathens and highwaymen,who exploit their own people. They make the rules (superstitions) and the people fear those rules for lack of education – most Indians at least. Participating in Indian citizenship can be quite dangerous.

    Under the skydome of true humanity which is expected of Man, however, we are all guilty, of not trying to get to the bottom of the real meaning of life, if ‘humanity’ is an ideal ‘religion’, ‘way of life’ or ‘educational outcome’ to be pursued for the sake of the freedom of the future. How to ensure that this principle is understood, through education and practice, from the moment of our conception (our coming into existence as human beings, gifted with a consciousness, which is a definition to which we all agree), could always be an important link for all such discussions.

  2. The fundamental problem with Shashi Tharoor’s proposition is that he identifies the messages of the Vedas and the Upanishads (which were born before the term `Hindu’ came into existence) with a so-called `Hindu’ mentality. To remind him, the word `Hindu’ cannot be found in the Vedas, Upanishads or Geeta. It was much later invented by traders who came from the Middle East to describe the people living on the banks of the river Sindhu (from which was derived the name `Hindu’). The Vedas and Upanishads are philosophical texts created by ancient Indian sages (who never described themselves as `Hindus,’ or belonging to any religious sect). Shashi Tharoor (like many others in the current fray of religio-political contest) is trying to appropriate these texts as manifestations of `good Hinduism.’ He ignores , or undermines the seamier messages of the main
    text of `Hinduism’ – the `Manu-sanghita’ which was much later scripted by the Brahmin patriarchy (sometime during the first two centuries A.D.) which institutionalized casteism and misogyny, among other discriminatory practices. It is this authority on Hindu social laws and behaviour (akin to the Muslim patriarchal `sharia’ laws) that still denies women their fundamental rights as citizens – as manifested in the current controversy over Sabarimala.