New Delhi: Days after he drew flak for comparing Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students’ union president Kanhaiya Kumar with Bhagat Singh, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor today said the student leader has never said he is not proud to be an Indian.
“When this young man, who you object to so strongly, stands up and says I want freedom from…he mentions casteism, he mentions capitalism. I don’t agree necessarily to things that he talks about. He has never said that he doesn’t take pride in being an Indian.
“What he says is contrary – that he is proud enough of India that he wants to change it into a better place…he is also proud of jawans fighting on border.
“He has seen his mother washing clothes, his father is bedridden. Don’t tell me his family is not proud of the country,” Mr Tharoor said in response to a question during a session on “India Shastra: Reflections of our time” at the annual ‘Take Pride’ summit organised by CII.
He was asked “How can India’s soft power increase if the mainstream media promotes someone who doesn’t take pride in being an Indian?”
Sharing an anecdote about KR Narayanan, the first Dalit President of the country, Tharoor said, “Despite being a brilliant student, he was not given his degree at the same ceremony as his upper caste classmates. This man could have easily turned bitter against India but he wanted to change the system within”.
“What we can take pride in is not the injustice he suffered, but in the fact that through our democracy, we were able to ensure that boy who suffered this kind of humiliation rose to the highest constitutional post of the country…the notion is what we must take pride in,” he said.
Mr Tharoor had last week kicked up a controversy after comparing Mr Kumar with freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, drawing strong criticism today from the BJP.
Mr Tharoor, who had attracted his party’s ire last year for praising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, today said, “One thing I have always been willing to give the current government a credit for is adoption of the UN resolution on celebration of an International Yoga Day.
So we actually have an Indian practice being celebrated across the world which in a way would be tremendous enhancement of the country’s soft power.”
Asserting that for development on the global front, India needs to strike a balance between its ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’, he said, “It is not that the country with a bigger Army that wins but the country that tells the better story that wins.”
“Soft power is an asset but we need to solve our internal problems to maintain that power in the world. We have to not only have the ability to cope with jehadi terrorists but also millions of our people who face the daily terror of poverty and hunger; that too has to be overcome,” he said.
“I have notoriously referred to India as a land of paradoxes and one of the greatest paradox is that some of us speak of India as a great power of 21st century…as we know I landed up in a controversy few years ago for saying how can we be a super power when we are still super poor.
“The truth is we still have many challenges when we talk about population, military strength, economic growth…what really matters to future of India is the people at bottom 25 per cent of our society who have been left out of the success story we have been celebrating,” he said.