In his article, Shashi Tharoor says that for the first time his respect for gender equality and the Supreme Court is at odds with his respect for the rights of believers and the “rule of law".

Tharoors U-turn on Sabarimala gets thanks from Rahul Easwar rebuke from Ram Guha
news Sabarimala Sunday, November 11, 2018 - 16:17

Writing for The Print recently, Congress leader and Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor states that the Sabarimala issue leaves “liberals like him” supposedly “torn”. The article has led to impassioned responses from all over the political spectrum, with some expressing their joy in support of his views, while others aired their abject disappointment and surprise that Tharoor, who has in the past expressed his support for women’s entry into Sabarimala, has now taken a softer approach towards those revolting against the SC verdict.

In his article, Shashi Tharoor says that for the first time (in his lifetime), his respect for gender equality, the Constitution and the Supreme Court is at odds with his respect for the rights of believers and the “rule of law” that sustains democracy. 

He argues that “abstract notions of constitutional principle” have to “pass the test of societal acceptance”, and that religious beliefs are inherently based on faith, not reason, and thus religions do not need to adhere to principles of liberal democracy is reality.

While he takes pot-shots at both the BJP and the CPI(M) for politicising the issue, he makes no explicit mention of his own party’s convoluted views on the SC’s verdict, or his recent social media post, which indicated his participation in a Congress-led rally on the issue in Pathanamthitta on November15. 

The article has led to some strong responses from across the board. 

In a strongly worded response on Scroll, Sruthisagar Yamunan decries Tharoor’s views unequivocally. He takes objection to Constitutional guarantee of equality being characterised by Tharoor as an “abstract notion of constitutional principle”, stating that it is instead “one of the cardinal rules on which constitutional democracy rests”. Yamunan also explains that “liberal constitution such as India’s places individual liberty over collective preferences” and to reverse this position is to, ironically, “commit a constitutional sin.” He also wonders what message Tharoor’s view would send to members of other minority groups, and if he would follow the same reasoning in the Babri Masjid issue. 

Historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted that it was an extremely disappointing piece, and pointed out that if Narayana Guru or Mahatma Gandhi had behaved like the Congressmen of today, Dalits would still be excluded from temples in Kerala.

Meanwhile, lawyer and writer Suhrith reminded Tharoor of the role of the Constitution, while lawyer Sanjay Hedge disputed Tharoor’s claim that ‘instinctive liberals’ feel torn, taking particular exception to Tharoor’s opinion that court judgements must also enjoy majoritarian approval.

Tharoor’s views received the enthusiastic and grateful support of anti-women’s-entry activist Rahul Easwar. In fact, Tharoor seemed to have known that Easwar would appreciate his sentiments, as he responded directly to an earlier tweet by Easwar with the link to his article. Easwar had earlier tweeted that Tharoor hadn’t spent even 10 minutes studying the Sabarimala issue, and if he had, he would have been one of the “best defenders of Sabarimala”.

In response to Guha, former Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao Menon said that the issue of Sabarimala was different from the other struggles he mentioned.

Other known Hindu right-wing voices online also opposed Guha's comparison of the two issues.

On his own Facebook post, while some said that his article smacked of political opportunism and a betrayal of his previously expressed views, others supported him. 

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