Shashi Tharoor’s Riot: Perspectives on History, Politics and Culture of India

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Tharoor reflects in length the pluralism in Indian kaleidoscopic culture that consists of a continuous play of history, culture and power. He deals with the multiple assaults on the Republic of India, such as language, religion, caste and class and how they play a significant role in breaking up Indian culture into individual entities. Hosting a novel amidst the morbid sectarian clashes in 1989 in North India, Shashi Tharoor explores the cultural diversity in Native India. Tharoor voices his stringent views on how culture is broken up due to the hatred between communities, and carefully traces up the controversy over the Babri Masjid. The backdrop of the novel is set in 1989 when Ram Sila Poojan Programme was undertaken by Hindus to rebuild the temple in Ram Janma Bhoomi which led to the destruction of Babri Masjid in 1992.

According to Tharoor, India currently boasts 18 nationally recognized languages, 17 other distinct languages and 22,000 dialects. He tells in the novel Riot through Lakshman, the young Magistrate of Zalilgarh, “Language groups have their own political entities to look forward to give expression to their linguistic identity…. Language divides” (42). Through an interesting love story, he spins out potent social commentary and a broad historical analysis. Though 82% of Indians are Hindus, they are fragmented into castes and sub castes, and classes – upper, middle and lower class. Tharoor further studies that the privileged elite is just 5 % whereas 75% of Indians are formed by the poor, lower class.

Apart from these divisions and discriminations haunting India, another cause for the cultural collisions and communal tensions in the country is religion. He observes in his text:

Religion also bree...

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Gergen, David. "India Turns 50: A Transcript of an interview with Shashi Tharoor" On-line. Newshour. August 1997.http://www.pbs.org/newshour/gergen/august97/india.html

SAJA (South Asian Journalists Association). "Bio of past SAJA guest speaker Shashi Tharoor." On-line. SAJA. Columbia University. 1997. 12 Feb. 1998.

http://moon.jrn.columbia.edu/SAJA/shashi.html

Tharoor, Shashi. "Whose Culture Is It Anyway? The role of culture in developing countries: an Indian writer's view." On-line. Harvard Asia Pacific Review (HAPR). 12 Feb.1998. http://www.hcs.harvard.edu/~hapr/tharoor.html

Tharoor, Shashi. “Politics of identity”. "The Hindu", Online edition of India's National Newspaper May 21, 2006 http://shashitharoor.com.html

Chabal, Emile. “Passion and Politics”. Newsline. Karachi, Pakistan. Feb 2002. http://www.shashitharoor.com/reviews/riot/riot-karachi.html

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