A lawyer who pinned Tharoor down on his patriotism vs nationalism narrative

10th September 2021

10th September 2021

Shashi Tharoor at the launch of his book: J Say Deepak is right corner

Congress veteran leader Shashi Tharoor recently launched his latest book, The Battle of Belonging: On Nationalism, Patriotism, And What It Means To Be Indian in Chennai. 

The event was organized by The C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar Foundation and it was followed by an intense discussion where Supreme Court advocate J. Sai Deepak, who incidentally was one of the lawyers in the Sabrimala Case. 

While Tharoor raised some of the core concepts like nationalism, patriotism, civic nationalism, and the idea of India, advocate Deepak did not seem convinced with the “Post-Colonial lens” through which Tharoor has tried to present India. 

Tharoor started his fact by mentioning the point that he “is built on George Orwell’s and Rabindranath Tagore’s ideas” and this was enough to present how weak is the foundation of the structure on which he builds the idea of patriotism and nationalism in context to India. 

“Orwell’s visceral hatred of nationalism is very much influenced by what he saw in Europe’s nationalist movements in the 30s and 40s. Building on Orwell, I came to the view that patriotism is about your love for the country…much about how you love your mother… because it is yours. Nationalist is caught up in an idea that is caught up in the State — flag, army and often defines his allegiance in opposition to others,” he said. 

Going by his view, for him “a patriot is prepared to die for his country while a nationalist is prepared to kill for his state.”

The author feels the nationalism being promoted in India today is a totalising vision that excludes citizens, those who do not subscribe to it, on the basis of identity or immutable markers like ethnicity, religion, language, and so on.

Tharoor throughout the discussion presented India as a symbol he and members of his party wish it to be. He highlighted how India became an inclusive society only because of Constitution and it was after the formation of the constitution that people were given the freedom to practice their own cultural and religious identity. 

On a dissenting note, Deepak brilliantly rebutted the arguments and said that the book takes a “truncated view” of what people crudely dub as ‘Hindu nationalism’.

He puts out how Tharoor’s book completely ignores the scholarships of de-colonialism and presents India’s experience with a  blinkered vision, trying to pull the guilt of European nationalism on India’s consciousness. He mentioned that while we are repeatedly told that if the country becomes Hindu-Rashtra it would be no less than what Tharoor considers Hindu Pakistan, it is a grave injustice to people of India who despite the horrors of Partition, has done a vastly superior job in protecting the minorities.

It is this country that allows you to keep your culture alive whereas western styles assimilation, which is highly celebrated, requires people to convert their way of living in one way or another.   

He said, “the constitution draft presented at Hindu Mahasabha promised equal rights to religious minorities. He said, “Bharat has always welcomed those people who are willing to live with us. We did not have a constitution when persecuted Parsis or Jews knocked at the doors of Bharat. So attributing large-heartedness entirely to the Constitution looks like protecting it at the expense of civilization. 

He said, “We seem to fix the idea of Hindutva with certain personalities (which he translates as Bharatiya Dharmic civilization reawakening). It would be a grave injustice to the society using one particular individual used as a straw man as the concept of Dharmic civilizationalism is much larger than any single individual.”

“Be it Mohandas Gandhi or Dr. Ambedkar it is not possible to completely glorify or agree with all parts they said. It is important for you to see the idea of Dharmic civilizationalism independent of European nationalism,” he added. 

Why did Mahatma Gandhi support the Khilafat movement? Why did Nehru write to Dr. Rajendra Prasad not to attend the inauguration of the renovated Somnath temple? Why were the personal laws of only Hindus changed? Why was the Shah Bano case judgment overruled by an ordinance? These are questions we are familiar with. We are not excavating the past for creating present day acrimony. For a long time these questions were never raised and so the idea of India remained uncontested.

Another interesting point came when Tharoor said he subscribes to the idea of Hinduism preached by Swami Vivekanand that promotes inclusiveness and not of Veer Savarkar. Responding to this, Deepak said while Swami Vivekanand hails universal brotherhood from the podium of Chicago, he was also very clear with the fact that “Universalism cannot come at the expense of pixelation of the history.” Citing an example, he mentioned how once, even Vivekanand threatened a Christian missionary for spewing venom against Hindu culture. 

He continued to target Tharoor by stating that they have “colonial consciousness that prevents them to access parts of past and put them in deep slumber in the name of secularism.”

Saw Deepak highlighted the distortions of secularism in practice in India and said while only Hindus are constantly subjected to scrutiny, there is no mention of another kind of fundamentalism, including Islamic fundamentalism in his book. 

Tharoor’s bubble of obsession with the Constitution was busted by Deepak when he quoted Dr. Ambedkar, the chairman of the constitution drafting committee regretted having to live during his lifetime to see the constitution and its values been completely thrown.

The series of rebuttals shows how Tharoor ignored the very basic fundamental of Hinduism but just like his fellow misguided Liberals, wants to revive the dubious ‘soft Hindutva’ strategy of this party.



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