The Congress is not defending Article 370 “for all time” because it was “never intended to be forever” but the manner in which J&K’s special status was revoked was “undoubtedly violative of the spirit” of the Constitution, Lok Sabha MP and Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said. Speaking to The Indian Express Wednesday, ahead of the release of his latest book The Hindu Way, Tharoor also said that given the “depth of belief” associated with the Ram temple in Ayodhya, “there would have been a case for having some sort of proper temple there, ideally, without destroying another community’s place of worship”.
On secularism, he said that “religions being treated differently just gives material to those who are putting chips on the shoulders of people…”
Speaking about a uniform civil code, Tharoor said “none of us would say” that it is a bad idea but argued that “since communities have certain….undeniably entrenched interests in the preservation of certain social and cultural practices, you need to persuade these communities that there may be an argument in favour of greater social harmony in doing this”.
On the Ram temple, Tharoor said: “I have always been of the view that the faiths of millions have to be respected. In other words, if indeed the evidence suggests that there was a temple on the spot and popular lore suggests it was a Ram temple… given that there is so much depth of belief, there would have been a case for having some sort of proper temple there, ideally, without destroying another community’s place of worship. The question of how to arrive at such a mutually acceptable solution was unfortunately, disrupted by the violence and destroyed the mosque itself. And that I think was a real blot on India’s conscience. Now the matter is before the courts, I will leave it there.”
In his book, Tharoor says “secularism is a misnomer in the Indian context of profuse religiosity and what we should be talking about it pluralism.” He then argues that “under the Indian version of secularism, the Government’s financial largesse is extended to Muslim Wakf Boards, Buddhist monasteries and certain Christian religious institutions… state governments are empowered to take over, own and operate Hindu temples, collect revenue from offerings and redistribute that revenue to such purposes as they deem fit, including any non-temple related ones….This may well be worth re-examination.”
Asked to explain the need for a “re-examination”, Tharoor said that “some of the ways in which we practise secularism…has given ammunition to the worst enemies of Indian pluralism and diversity”.
“It is easier for us to sustain an argument that says we treat all religions alike. Now, benefits of the state going to underprivileged communities, including religious minorities, is a different matter. But religions being treated differently just gives material to those who are putting chips on the shoulders of people who didn’t know their chips before,” he said.
Asked about the apparent confusion in the Congress on the revocation of special status under Article 370 to J&K, Tharoor said there “should be no confusion” that J&K is “an integral part” of the Indian union. However, he said: “There has been confusion about whether we are defending (Article) 370 for all time. The answer is no. Even Nehruji said that 370 needs to stay as long as it needs to stay but doesn’t have to stay forever.”
But “the way in which this action was undertaken was a violation of the spirit of the Constitution”, he said. According to Tharoor, Kashmiris should have been consulted before the decision was taken and parties like the National Conference should have been heard and “given a chance to explain why it should not go”.
“But I am not taking a view that it should absolutely be cast in stone forever. Because it was never intended to be forever, it was meant to be a facilitation mechanism. But to treat it this way and dispense with it so brutally makes us no different from Pakistan. We have done to Jammu and Kashmir, the very things we objected to Pakistan doing to Gilgit Baltistan, to PoK and so on,” he said.