The loneliness of being Arun Shourie
The once firebrand intellectual and politician now sits on the sidelines.
- Total Shares
Till a few years ago, Arun Shourie was the posterboy of the politically dispossessed and intellectually disoriented right-wing. He was the voice of the once marginalised millions who currently dictate the shrilling cyberspace, and randomly — and often viciously — invoke Pakistan, Love Jihad and Holy Cow in the same breath.
His works were quoted as if they had certain sanctity about them. But now, in the past three years, ironically under a regime which seemed akin to his ideological moorings, Shourie cuts a lonely figure. His dilemma is that the traditionally-dominant Left doesn’t trust him, and the newly-arrived Right doesn’t want to have him!
As Shourie comes up with his latest book, Two Saints, on Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and Ramana Maharshi, one is tempted to ask if he finds solace in religion to deal with his isolation.
Shourie is swift to deny the charge: “My very first book, Hinduism: Essence & Consequences (1982), was religious in nature. So were books like The World of Fatwas.” The reason, instead, is personal. And Shourie has never shied away from conceding it.
He writes in his 1994 book, Missionaries in India, how “since the trauma of the brain injury of our child”, Aditya, who is 42 now, “I have been reading and reflecting on the scriptures of all traditions to glean the explanation for suffering.”
His findings were damning: “Either God doesn’t know what is happening here, or he is unable to alter it, or is not suffused with compassion.”
Twenty-three years later, little has changed in his perception, except that he is a Buddhist today. “Buddhism is one religion that’s closest to reason,” he explains.
Two Saints, reminds Shourie, isn’t a typical biography. “The book explains what neuroscientists would have said had they encountered the two saints. I have tried to find out if their supernatural experiences could have also occurred in natural circumstances, and whether these can be artificially induced in a laboratory.”
He, however, adds that the two were the greatest saints of the last 100 years. “If Ramakrishna touched someone, he would find himself in a trance. By now Bengal would have completely westernised and Christianised but for his presence. Similarly, whenever anyone in Mahatma Gandhi’s company felt distraught or disturbed he would send that person to Maharshi’s ashram in Arunachala Hill,” he says. Such was his influence that C Rajagopalachari never let Gandhi visit Arunachala Hill for the fear of losing him forever to spirituality!
What has been consistent so far turns jarring when Shourie calls organised religion, including Hinduism, “a device of aggression” and goes to the extent of comparing Love Jihad and cow vigilantism with the ISIS/Taliban imposing all kinds of restrictions in the name of the Shari’ah!
Modi and Amit Shah have, within three years, completed the ‘Mayawati-isation’ of the BJP, says Arun Shourie. Photo: India Today
This is not the Shourie we have known. For, here was the liberal who had over the decades ensured he wouldn’t commit the mistakes other liberals had made — of balancing one religious act with another, of being politically correct. By doing so, he seems to be threatening his own legacy which he had built singlehandedly in an era when being a jholawalla was fashionable.
But Shourie doesn’t stop there and questions the democratic credentials of PM Narendra Modi. “What we are witnessing today is a decentralised drift towards Emergency. Indira Gandhi’s Emergency was visible on the surface, today it is happening below the surface,” says Shourie, as he reminds of the recent raids at Prannoy Roy’s houses. “These raids remind me of the raids on Ramnath Goenkajee during the 1970s and the 1980s.”
Shourie doesn’t think there’s space for people like him in politics anymore. “PM Modi and Amit Shah have, within three years, completed the ‘Mayawati-isation’ of the party. There used to be internal democracy in the BJP of (Atal Bihari) Vajpayee and (LK) Advani. It’s no longer there.”
The RSS, too, doesn’t come out unscathed. He blames it for allowing things to drift so far, and being content with a few appointments in academic/cultural institutions. “Such appointments have been leased out to the RSS,” he alleges, adding the move will end up delegitimising these institutions as the Sangh doesn’t have the intellectual bandwidth to fill these spaces on its own.
He quotes Paulo Freire’s book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, to explain how the oppressed, when they get a chance, do the same thing which their oppressor had done in the past. “The RSS is blindly aping the communists who had monopolised academic institutions in the 1970s with state support.”
Shourie is angry. Partly, one can sympathise with him. For, here’s the man who all by himself led a successful “uprising” against India’s “eminent historians”. But when the war came to an end, he found himself marginalised.
No doubt, he made a few cardinal errors in recent times and some of his outbursts were uncalled for, but Shourie definitely deserves a second chance. And so does India. Modi, by doing so, will only prove Shourie wrong. And if he doesn’t, some of the muck might stick with him. The question is: Will he?