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Modi paying lip-service to Mahatma: Tharoor

Jaipur: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was paying “lip-service” to Mahatma Gandhi and the ruling party’s intellectuals, who had been “deep-rooted in hatred” for the Father of the Nation, were now “hailing him as a hero”, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor said today.

“It’s the easiest to pay lip-service to the Mahatma. BJP MP Sakshi Maharaj is an example who called for building of statues of Nathuram Godse even as the government is co-opting Gandhi as a symbol in most spheres of political and social life,” he said at a session at the Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) here.

He said that the Ramayana and the Mahabharata should also be taught in schools.

“The Ramayana and the Mahabharata should also be taught like the way epics like the Iliad and the Odyssey are read in schools. But I’m not at all in favour of injecting a political ideology into our education.”

To a question on Britain’s legacy on India’s education, Tharoor said it was “unfortunate” that Shakespeare was taught in schools and colleges in India whereas there was not enough emphasis on the teaching of Kalidasa.

Tharoor was in conversation with historian John Wilson and publisher Michael Dwyer at a session on ‘Remembering the Raj’. The panel delved into Tharoor’s recent book, ‘An Era of Darkness: The British Empire in India’.

To a rapturous applause, he said in his opening remarks that when the British came here, India was a prosperous country and over 200 years of British rules reduced it to the poorest country in the world.

He slammed Britons and those who cite the civilising mission of the colonials to justify imperialism, saying that “you don’t have to be colonised to get the railways”.

The British rule was not intended for benefiting Indians with railways, English language, cricket and political democracy, but it was brought here to serve British interests.

“During the British Raj, India was the easiest place in the world for an untalented Englishman to thrive.

“Over 35 million Indians died unnecessary deaths because of British policy and (Winston) Churchill, who is often held up as a democratic ideal by the apologists of the Empire, was on record denying financial assistance to starving Bengalis during the Great Bengal Famine. In fact, the famine camps were given less provision than those in the Buchenwald concentration camp,” he said.

He, however, said that it was important to forgive “what we went through but equally important not to forget it”.