H C Singh

Appreciation and comments on Shashi Tharoor’s Book INDIA: From Midnight to The Millennium and Beyond

There is absolutely no doubt that Shashi Tharoor, besides being a great diplomat of UN and now almost Foreign Minister of India, is an excellent thinker and great writer of India. His ideas about Indian nationalism, Unity in Diversity and the detailed expression of these two fundamental issues is matchless. It is apt to reproduce in detail Tharoor’s views on these two aspects as under:

Indian nationalism is “not based on any of the conventional indices of national identity. Not language, since India’s Constitution recognizes eighteen official languages, and there are thirty-five that are spoken by more than a million people each. Not ethnicity, since the “Indian” accommodates a diversity of racial types in which many Indians have more in common with foreigners than with other Indians—Indian Punjabis and Bengalis, for instance, have more in common with Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, respectively, than with other Indians. Not religion, since India is a secular pluralist state that is home to every religion known to mankind, with the possible exception of Shintoism. Not geography, since the natural geography of the subcontinent – the mountains and the sea–was hacked by the Partition of 1947. And not even territory, since, by law, anyone with one grandparent born in pre-Partition India – outside the territorial boundaries of today’s state—is eligible for citizenship. Indian nationalism has therefore always been the nationalism of an idea. It is, as I have tried to demonstrate in this book, the idea of an ever-ever land emerging from an ancient civilization, united by a shared history, sustained by pluralist democracy.

 In 1996 the then prime minister, H.D.Deve Gowda, stood at the ramparts of Delhi’s, Red Fort to deliver Independence Day message to the Nation “What was unusual this time was that Deve Gowda, a southerner from the state of Karnataka, spoke to the country in a language of which he did not know a word. Tradition and politics required a speech in Hindi, so he gave one—the words having been written out for him in his native Kannada script, in which they, of course, made no sense.”

Such an episode is almost inconceivable elsewhere, but it represents the best of the oddities that help make India. Only in India could there be a country ruled by a man who does not understand its “national language”; only in India, for that matter.”

 There are some more very significant views of Shashi Tharoor on India’s Unity in Diversity, particularly about Sonia Gandhi whom many like Sharad Pawar considered a foreigner and not eligible for being the leader of Congress Party or Government as PM. As a congress Party has been in existence and leading the Indian Independence Movement for more than a hundred years. Here are some extracts from his book:

 India’s national identity has long been built on the slogan “unity in diversity.” The “Indian” comes in such varieties that a woman who is fair-skinned, sari-wearing and Italian-speaking, as Sonia is, is not more foreign to my grandmother in Kerala than one who is “wheatish-complexioned,” wears a salwar-kameez and speaks Punjabi. Our nation absorbs both these types of people; both are equally “foreign” to some of us, equally Indian to us all.

 Shashi Tharoor’s views on Unity in Diversity of India are superb. He has also written analytically on Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru Indira Gandhi even on Sanjay Gandhi. But there are other aspects on which some comments are called for particularly, his neglect of leaders like Dr Rajendra Parsad India’s first President who was first Bihari who topped in MA economics in Calcutta University with remarks of the Examiner “Examinee knows more than the examiner. There is also neglect of Dr Abdul Kalam Azad who though a Muslim was a dedicated follower if Gandhi till his last breath. Sardar Patel, Deputy PM who consolidated India by incorporation 500 Princely States and even Hyderabad by Pohri Action and Gandhian. Jaya Parkash Narain even to an extent of Lal Bahadur Shastri, glaring omissions of prominent leaders from opposition: E.M.S Nambodrepad, virtually founder of Communist Party in India and first Communist Chief Minister of Kerala and of an Indian State. Even Atal Bihari Vajpayee who has been Prime Minister of India as well as longest serving Member of India’s Parliament. These omissions are noteworthy in a famous book on INDIA.

December 14, 2009 - Posted by | Achievers, Biography, India, Indian History, Political Commentary, Politics, Religion | , , , , , ,

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