Jaipur, Jan 22: Congress MP Shashi Tharoor on Sunday praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi but found fault with him and the BJP for being rooted in hostility even while hailing Mahatma Gandhi. Speaking at the Jaipur Literature Festival, writer Tharoor also expressed a desire to introduce the Mahabharata and Ramayana in curricula.
The discussion on 'Remembering the Raj' did not necessarily relate to the Modi government. But in the context of Gandhi, Tharoor accused the Bharatiya Janata Party government and its ideological parent Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) of paying mere lip service to the Father of the Nation.
Tharoor was asked by publisher Michael Dwyer to share his perspective on Gandhi's "tricks and tactics".
"Gandhiji used tricks and tactics against the British empire that worked because they were obliged to allow Gandhiji to lead the campaign as he wished. It was because there was a moral deficiency in the British and even they knew they were wrong," the Congress leader said.
"And what tactics?" Tharoor asked. "The tactics of Mahatma Gandhi were ahimsa and satyagraha. What he did was inflicting pain and suffering upon himself as a response to imperialism. There was not much the British could do anyway."
Shifting the narrative to the contemporary times, Tharoor accused "Modi and his party" of being deeply rooted in hostility.
"Modi and his party have been paying tributes to Gandhiji while the history and ideology of the BJP is deeply rooted in hostility.
"Everyone wishes to pay lip service to Gandhiji though they are against his principles in reality," Tharoor said as the packed house cheered in approval.
He said BJP members were trying to glorify Nathuram Godse, who murdered Gandhi.
Tharoor reminded the audience that Mahatma Gandhi and his principles have become "less in substance" today than it should have.
Nonetheless, Tharoor praised the Prime Minister for his diplomatic endeavours with Britain since taking power.
"I have said earlier too and I will repeat again. The arguments that I put forth in my book ("An Era of Darkness") have nothing to do with the current relations India and Britain share. This should not be the anxiety of the present because we have a booming diplomatic relation," he said.
Quoting Modi's speech during his visit to Britain last year, Tharoor said: "The Prime Minister then said 'others have spoken about the historical wrongs and rights. I will concentrate on the future'. That is what he should be doing and I think that is what he has done very well."
According to Tharoor, it was important for Indians to "forgive the British" but not "forget" their wrongdoing. "We should look at the history but also leave it where it belongs, in the past."
Tharoor also batted for changes in the education system to include the "Indian civilisational aspects".
"The British wanted to colonise the Indian mind. Whatever education was brought to India was to further strengthen the British Raj and to colonise our behaviour.
"It is sad that even after 70 years, though we study Shakespeare, we have not been teaching Kalidasa to our children.
"I am very much in favour of having Ramayana and Mahabharata taught in our schools. This should be seen as enriching our educational system with our cultural heritage," he said.
Tharoor, however, expressed his disapproval on "injecting a particular political ideology" into our education system and contented that "only the civilisational aspect should be introduced in our text books".
A regular at the Jaipur Literature Festival, Tharoor is among the biggest crowd pullers.
His latest book, "An Era of Darkness", serves to correct many misconceptions about the British Raj and has been a major point of discussion at the 10th edition of JLF.
(Saket Suman is in jaipur at the invitation of Teamwork arts. He can be contacted at email@example.com)