The Millions

The Unimaginable Became Reality: The Millions Interviews Shashi Tharoor

On December 6, 1992, a chanting mob of Hindu nationalists, enraged by a contested claim, spread by India’s BJP party, that medieval Muslim invaders desecrated the birth site of a Hindu deity, descended on the Babri Mosque in the city of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. Some rioters climbed to the rooftop domes and began battering them with poles and rocks. Others stood by, waving saffron flags of Hinduism. By the end of the day, the 450-year old mosque was destroyed. In the nationwide unrest that followed, more than 1,000 Indians were killed.

In his book Why I Am a Hindu, Indian author, member of parliament, and former candidate for U.N. Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor challenges the nationalist philosophy, known as “Hindutva,” which has encouraged countless acts of violent vigilantism against Indian Muslims in the years since the mosque’s destruction. He traces its trajectory as a fringe movement influenced by Nazi theories of racial purity in the 1930s to its rise as a mainstream ideology endorsed today by the ruling BJP party.

Part memoir, part polemic, Why I Am a Hindu reminisces about the India Tharoor remembers from his childhood, a country he says was more tolerant not just of diverse interpretations of Hinduism, but other religions too.

What prompted you to write now? You’ve

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