With the usual wit and charm, in a city that suddenly found itself in the grip of rains and monsoon-like gloom, Shashi Tharoor enchanted the minds thirsty for his magical words in a packed hall of Bangla Academy at the Lit Fest, reflecting on the issue "India against Itself" on November 09, 2019.
In an interaction with CR Abrar, professor of International Relations at the University of Dhaka, Tharoor said that India had been governed by the British for 200 years and they had no intention to leave the country ever. The perpetual colonial project was centred on industrialisation and massive production in India to benefit the British Raj. He argued that colonisation massively destroyed the rivers and lands since they considered India, first as a source of raw material and then as a site mass production.
The conversation than veered towards Tharoor's 'An Era of Darkness: The British Empire' in India (2016), a book that attempts a retelling of the British colonial period from an Indian perspective. The book is an elaboration of his Oxford speech which also went viral on social media.
Tharoor, a former civil servant turned politician, came off as an excellent narrator and he went on to become a bestselling author – in the realm of fiction as well as non-fiction. His acumen lies in his ability to imbricate the political with the historical.
Faced with a question from Abrar as to what prompted him to write the book 'Why I am a Hindu' (2018), Tharoor, by way of an explanation, stated that religion is a very personal concern and it shall remain private. By saying so he elucidated that the core of Hinduism lies in the idea of 'acceptance' as Swami Vivekananda's discourse once emphasised.
India paid heavily under colonial oppression, now it is oppressing its own people, he added.
Hyper-nationalism is spreading its rhizomes in India which may be the reason for the government to have excluded 1.9 million people from the final list of The National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam. The exclusion of migrated people to Assam violets human rights and it made those people stateless where they lived for years, he pointed out.
Earlier Tharoor further said that India's move on Article 370 is "absolutely undemocratic" and "an assault on the constitution."
While answering a question from the audience as the sole panellist, he said that it was unfortunate and he could only hope for the better. What has happened with Kashmir today, can happen with any state tomorrow, with this stock remark he came to his conclusion.
Time is such that anything could happen in any state in India, he said as he parted company by thanking the audience.