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Writers Speak Up against the Unmaking of India

“A distinguished Kannada writer and Sahitya Akademi Award winner, M.M. Kalburgi, and two Maharashtrians, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare, both anti-superstition activists, have all been killed by gun-toting motor-cyclists. Other dissenters have been warned they are next in line. Most recently, a village blacksmith, Mohammed Akhlaq, was dragged out of his home in Bisara village outside Delhi, and brutally lynched, on the supposed suspicion that beef was cooked in his home. In all these cases, justice drags its feet. The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.” Nayantara Sahgal in her statement “Unmaking India”, published inwww.indianculturalforum.in.

August 30, 2015: Kannada scholar M. M. Kalburgi assassinated 

September 12, 2015: Uday Prakash returned his Akademi award saying that free speech was endangered under the NDA government. He added that “the Akademi organises a tamasha of sorts, presents you an award and forgets about you. When something like this happens, there is no word of consolation and support from them. Writers are a family but they don’t seem to care.”

October 3, 2015: Kannada writers Veeranna Madiwalar, T. Satish Javare Gowda, Sangamesh Menasinakai, Hanumanth Haligeri, Shridevi V. Aloor and Chidanand Sali returned their Kannada Sahitya Parishat awards in protest over the delay in the inquiry into rationalist M.M. Kalburgi’s killing. Veeranna Madiwalar said, “I was among the eight who was given the Aralu Prashasti… We were really proud we got the award when Kalburgi was present. We’re upset at the slow pace of the CID investigation [on M.M. Kalburgi’s murder]. We fear the probe will go the way of the other social activists, Dabholkar and Pansare, who were also killed.” T. Satish Javare Gowda said “It is a simple gesture to exert pressure on the state government to nab the culprits.” Chidanand Sali said “The CID investigation is creating doubts among Kalburgi’s followers that the culprits may not be nabbed quickly.”

October 6, 2105: Nayantara Sahgal returned her Akademi award, saying The Prime Minister remains silent about this reign of terror. We must assume he dare not alienate evil-doers who support his ideology.”

October 7, 2105: Ashok Vajpeyi returned his Akademi award, saying “This is in solidarity with writers and intellectuals being murdered in broad daylight… Sahgal was right. He is a very loquacious Prime Minister. Why doesn’t he tell the nation that the pluralism of this country will be defended at every cost?”

October 9, 2015: Rahman Abbas returned his state Akademi award, saying “This is high time… and we cannot remain voiceless. Hence, I request senior Urdu writers, poets and critics… to register protest against murder andkilling of creative writers by returning Sahitya Academy Awards.”

October 9, 2015: T.M. Krishna wrote to the Prime Minister, saying “Words, strong and emotional words come to you easily. So why do we need to shout and scream for a few sentences about a man who was lynched for allegedly consuming beef?”

October 10, 2105: Shashi Deshpande resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council,saying in such a situation “silence is an abetment”.

October 10, 2015: Sara Joseph returned her state Akademi award, saying “There is a growing fear and lack of freedom under the present government… Writers are being killed, people are being killed, ghazal singers are not being allowed to perform – this is not the free India I have lived in… The Sahitya Akademi has remained silent over all of this, when it should have been the first to speak out. I am returning my award in protest…”

October 10, 2015: K. Satchidanandan resigned from the Executive Board and all other committees of the Sahitya Akademi, saying “I am sorry to find that you think this is a “political issue”; to writers like me, this is an issue of our basic freedom to live, think and write.Annihilation should never be allowed to replace argument, the very essence of democracy.”

October 10, 2015: P.K. Parakkadavu resigned from the General Council of the Sahitya Akademi, citing its failure to uphold freedom of expression.  

October 10, 2015: Keki Daruwalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “What does it [your silence] say of the Akademi as an institution and of office bearers of this institution as upholders of our literary and cultural values?

October 10, 2015: Adil Jussawalla wrote to the Akademi President, saying “I believe this is the time for it [the Akademi] to boldly state that it unequivocally supports the rights of this nation’s writers and condemns the violence used to suppress or destroy those rights.”

October 10, 2015: Mridula Garg wrote on the Prime Minister breaking his silence, saying “If that is all he [Modi} has to say and is not ready to be held accountable for the distortion of our so called ancient culture and bashing of intellectuals in word and deed by his Ministers and M.Ps, then I prefer him silent.”

October 11, 2015: Aravind Malagatti resigned from the Sahitya Akademi General Council, saying “I have resigned condemning the killing of Kalburgi and silence of Akademi over the issue. It should have spoken out and expressed its condemnation against such acts.”

October 11, 2015: Kumbar Veerabhadrappa (Kumvee) returned his Akademi award, saying“I’m doing this condemning the killings of Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare and M. M. Kalburgi, and Akademi’s silence on the issue; also against Dadri lynching… These incidents are an attempt to destroy the diversity of this country and it signals the entry of fascism in to India.”

October 11, 2015: G.N. Devy returned his Akademi award, saying “Your moment of reckoning has come… I do this as an expression of my solidarity with several eminent writers who have recently returned their awards to highlight their concern and anxiety over the shrinking space for free expression and growing intolerance towards difference of opinion…

October 11, 2015: Mangalesh Dabral returned his Akademi award saying “Efforts must be made to ensure that several writers come together and take a collective decision to return their awards…”

October 11, 2015: Rajesh Joshi returned his Akademi award saying, with Dabral in a joint statement, “We clearly see a threat to our democracy, secularism and freedom. There have been attempts to curb free speech earlier also, but such trends have become more pronounced under the present government. These are visible all over…”

October 11, 2015: Four Punjabi writers – Gurbachan Singh Bhullar, Ajmer Singh Aulakh, Atamjit Singh, Waryam Sandhu – returned their Akademi awards in a single day. Bhullar said he was perturbed by “…the attempts at disrupting the social fabric of the country, targeting particularly the area of literature and culture, under an orchestrated plan of action…” Aulakh said he was pained by the attacks on “progressive writers, leaders of the rational movement and the forcible saffronisation of education and culture… and the communal atmosphere being created in the country… The central government was not performing its duty as the representative of a secular and democratic country.” Atamjit Singh said he “is very upset over the incidents of communal hatred in the country for the last some months”.

October 11, 2015: A federation of Kashmiri scholars, Adbee Markaz Kamraz, too expressed solidarity with the eminent writers for their decision to return Sahitya Akademi awards, asking the top literary body to break its silence over the increasing “communal frenzy”.

October 11, 2015: G.N. Ranganath returned his Akademi award, saying he was disturbed by the recent curbs on freedom of expression.

October 11, 2015: D.N. Srinath announced he would return his translator’s award.

October 11, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal responded to the Akademi President’s remarks with a cheque for a lakh and added, “The fact that so many writers are returning their Awards or resigning from Akademi posts makes it clear how anguished we are that you have remained silent over the murder and intimidation of writers and the threat thathangs over dissent and debate.”

October 11, 2015: Aman Sethi returned his Yuva Puraskar, saying “The Akademi cannot draw its legitimacy by celebrating writers while shying clear of solidarity when they are targeted…”

October 12, 2015: N. Shivdas announced at a rally that he was returning his Akademi award, saying no action has been taken against the Sanatan Sanstha, whose members were allegedly involved in the killing of rationalists Govind Pansare and Narendra Dabholkar.

October 12, 2015: Megh Raj Mitter returned the Shiromani Lekhak, the Punjab government’s highest award for writers.

October 12, 2015: E. V. Ramakrishnan resigned from the English Advisory Board of the Sahitya Akademi.

October 12, 2015: K. S. Ravikumar resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.

October 12, 2015: C. R. Prasad resigned from the Malayalam Advisory Board of the Akademi.

October 12, 2015: Rajendra Kishore Panda invokes the constitution of the Sahitya Akademi in his letter to the Akademi President, saying one of its [the Akademi’s] prime duties is to stand by writers and scholars expressing their thoughts…”

October 12, 2015: Salman Rushdie joined the protests against the spread of “communal poison” and “rising intolerance” in the country. “I support Nayantara Sahgal and the many other writers protesting to the Sahitya Akademi. Alarming times for free expression in India,” he tweeted.

October 12, 2015: Ghulam Nabi Khayal said he was returning his award, adding that The minorities in the country are feeling unsafe and threatened. They feel their future is bleak.”

October 12, 2005: Gopalkrishna Gandhi said, “Writers returning Sahitya Akademi awards is a landmark moment… more should do so… They have spoken not just for the power of protest but also for the power of dissent… I don’t think there has been a time when three rationalists have been murdered, and the way they were, suggests a resemblance in the crimes. If writers and dissenters don’t protest, who will?

October 12, 2015: Theatre artist Maya Krishna Rao enlarges the stage of writers’ protests by adding the voices of performing artists. Her protest, she said, was against the Dadri lynching and the “rising intolerance” in the country.
October 12, 2015: Rahamat Tarikeri returned his Akademi award, protesting the recent increase in intolerance, included the Dadri lynching.

October 12, 2015: Four more writers from Punjab, Surjit Pattar, Baldev Singh Sadaknama, Jaswinder and Darshan Buttar added their voices in solidarity by announcing they were returning their awards. Pattar said “The murder of writers, scholars and thinkers in this diverse country is painful… Even more painful is that these murderers get away…”

October 12, 2015: Anil Joshi announces that he will return his Akademi award, saying “…it does not hold any importance when people like Kalburgi, (Govind) Pansare and (Narendra) Dabholkar are being killed… People who are behind these killings don’t have any respect for those holding different views and opinions. In that case, they would have killed Bhagat Singh, too, who did not believe in God, and Savarkar, who used to say that there is no need to worship cows…”

October 12, 2015: Chaman Lal returned his Akademi translation prize in solidarity with all writers of Indian languages including English.

October 13, 2015: Meena Alexander expressed solidarity with Indian writers and writes on the “Silenced Writer”.

October 13, 2015: Dalip Kaur Tiwana announced that she will return her Padma Shri, saying, “In this land of Gautama Buddha and Guru Nanak Dev, the atrocities committed on the Sikhs in 1984 and on the Muslims recurrently because of communalism are an utter disgrace to our state and society. And to kill those who stand for truth and justice put us to shame in the eyes of the world and God.”

October 13, 2015: Pradnya Pawar announced she was returning all her literary awards and the prize money to the Maharashtra state government to protest the “culture of intolerance” in the country. She added, “We are living in an era of undeclared emergency.”

October 13, 2015: Govind Nihlani spoke out in support of the writers, saying, “The situation of the days of ‘Tamas’, which saw the great divide and displacement of thousands has not changed. In fact, the fissures in society have grown and the manipulation of the vulnerable has increased.”

October 13, 2015: Bhai Baldeep Singh announced that he would return the Parman Patraconferred on him for his contributions to classical music and gurbani sangeet, to protest “the lack of appropriate response to warn off those who have been perpetrating crimes against humanity”.

October 13, 2015: Homen Borgohain announced he would return his Akademi award in protest against the Dadri incident, and attacks on minorities, liberal writers and rational thinkers. He also expressed his anguish over the growing fascist tendency in the country. A silent protest he said, had been going on inside him since the Dadri killing took place.

October 13, 2015: Nirupama Borgohain announced she would return her Akademi award to express disapproval of growing intolerance, saying “Religious intolerance has reached extreme level. But the leader of the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has not assured us to stop it and he is remaining silent. It is as if he is encouraging fascism to grow…”

October 13, 2015: Mandakranta Sen announced that she would return her young writers’ special award from the Akademi to protest against the Dadri lynching, and growing intolerance and communalism.

October 13, 2015: Marathi writers Harishchandra Thorat, Sanjay Bhaskar Joshi and Ganesh Visputay returned their Maharashtra state government awards, saying there was an emergency-like situation in the country.

October 14, 2015: Keki Daruwalla returned his Akademi award, saying “… in recent months it [the Akademi] has not stood up as boldly as it should for values that any literature stands for, namely freedom of expression against threat, upholding the rights of the marginalised, speaking up against superstitions and intolerance of any kind…. That Dr. M.M. Kalburgi, a Sahitya Akademi prize winner should be killed for no other reason except his rationalist views is something that cannot pass muster without some protest from brother authors.

October 14, 2015: Nayantara Sahgal issued a statement on www.indianculturalforum.in

October 14, 2015: Expressing concern over rising communal polarization and intolerance, 100 intellectuals from West Bengal intellectuals on Wednesday wrote to President Pranab Mukherjee, saying that the Modi government should take a tough stand against fundamentalists.”The composite culture is the essence (of the Indian society) but concerted efforts are on to destroy this. A dangerous game of communal polarisation is being played, the result of which are the murders of rationalist Narendra Dabholkar, leftist Govind Pansare and scholar M.M. Kalburgi,” the 100 intellectuals and authors, including eminent poets Shankha Ghosh and Nabaneeta Dev Sen, said.”Be it the lynching in Dadri or cancelling (ghazal maestro) Ghulam Ali’s concert or blackening senior journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for hosting a book launch of (ex-Pakistani foreign minister) Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, all are an example of this dangerous game of communal polarisation,” they said.”This is not the voice of a few authors or intellectuals but of the common people of our society who are now living in fear and apprehension,” added Sahitya Akademi Award winning author Nabaneeta Dev Sen. On October 15th, another 63 intellectuals added their names to the letter.

October 14, 2015: The Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh (GKLS) plans a series of demonstrations during the International Film Festival of India in Goa to condemn the murder of rationalists and writers in the country. Fifteen of the Konkani award winners, along with Padma Shri writer and academic Maria Couto, plan the protests to highlight their concerns before national and international delegates visiting the state for the 46th edition of the film festival. N. Shivdas, who had earlier announced that he will return his award, also plans to join the collective protest. “The trend of attacking people with creative temperament is not limited to a specific region but across nation…he (Prime Minister Modi) should give us an assurance that such incidents will not recur and the killers will be brought to justice,” said Shivdas.

October 14, 2015: Mohan Bhandari confirmed his decision to return his Akademi award in solidarity with the nationwide protest by writers against growing intolerance and killing of writers in Karnataka. He said, “It pains me to see growing intolerance and communalism against which we writers have always raised a strong voice in our writings. Returning the award is a way of bringing attention to the disturbing conditions prevailing in the country today.”

October 14, 2015: 40 Punjabi writers and theatre artists staged a protest in Chandigarh against the suppression of freedom of speech, and to express solidarity with those who have returned state awards. The number of awards returned in Punjab is the highest in the country.The group of 40 people included Mohan Bhandari, Chaman Lal, Meg Raj Mitter, Hardev Chauhan, Dr Dharamvira Gandhi, and Harjinder Kaur, chairperson, Punjab Arts Council. The highlight of the protest was 78-year-old Mohan Bhandari’s announcement to return his SahityaAkademi award.

October 14, 2015: Noted constitutional expert Fali S Nariman said it was high time Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke against the “plague of intolerance spreading rapidly across the country” and those using “violent methods to stymie free speech and dissent” were brought to book. 

October 15, 2015: Hardev Chauhan, who has returned an NCERT (National Council for Education, Research and Training) award for children’s writing, said he would also return his Shiromani Bal Sahit Lekhak award.

October 14, 2015: Class 11 student, Muddu Thir Thahalli of Sahyadri High School returned her Karnataka Sahitya Akademi award that she received for a collection of essays in 2011. She said it was to protest the killing of M.M. Kalburgi. She added, “Curtailment of freedom of expression is bad. Literature is a medium to express one’s opinions. There should be no curbs on free speech and writing.”

October 15, 2015: Chikkappanahalli Shanmukha, Principal Correspondent with Kannada Prabha newspaper, announced in a Facebook post that he would return the Madhyama Academy award in protest against the delay in apprehending the assailants of writer MM Kalburgi.

October 15, 2015: Nand Bharadwaj announced that he will return his Akademi award. The noted Rajasthani and Hindi writer and former director of Doorsarshan said, “It is sad to witness the silence of the Akademi over the increasing number of attacks on writers.”


October 16, 2015: Sahitya Akademi award winner and Telugu writer M. Bhoopal Reddy, announced he will return his Akademi award to express solidarity with protests against the “growing intolerance in the country”. He will also return his Ugadi Puraskaram award given by the Telangana Government to register his protest against the “indifference” of the state government to the growing number of farmer suicides. “They have increased since the new Government came to power, but the Government is more interested in spending money on building temples and other insignificant things,” he said.

275 (writers, performing artists and others) have spoken up in one way or the other, and so has the Adbee Markaz Kamraz, a federation of 25 literary and cultural organizations from North Kashmir, and the Goa Konkani Lekhak Sangh.

Originally published at Indian Cultural Forum. Republished under theCreative Commons License  Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License in solidarity with protesting writers and endorsement of dissent as a fundamental right and diversity as a national resource.


A surprising villain has come up in the Sunanda Pushkar saga. Apparently it is Twitter that killed her. "Murder by Twitter" "Live by Twitter, don't die by it" it seems. That would make sense if the accusation was that Mehr Tarar used Twitter to add insult to injury, but apparently it was Sunanda Tharoor's use of Twitter that was villain in her own murder.

In other words, a variation of the age old "she brought it on herself" by journalists who would normally object to the use of this reasoning while objecting to it is in vogue. But is it Twitter that failed Sunanda? These are some of the things Sunanda Tharoor seems to have said in the days before her death.

Messages of the sort allegedly sent by Mehr Tarar to Shashi Tharoor:

@mehrtarar I love you, Shashi Tharoor. And I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr,

Shashi. I'm not crying any more. I'm not falling to pieces. I'm more lucid than ever. How little I knew you became visible to me.@mehrtarar

You unfollowed me. You don't RT me and you don't answer me on twitter. I can live with your favourites. I have your personal validation have your personal validation of my words, I don't need any public one. For that I will wait until we are together publically really mehr

These are not exactly messages of an interviewer or even a friend. Sunanda Pushkar seemed convinced that Mehr Tarar was chasing Shashi Tharoor while she was suffering ill health and Shashi Tharoor was tempted (if not already having a "rip roaring affair"). The interview with Indian Express is explosive. A quote:

“I completely stand by my tweets, I 100 per cent stand by that,” Sunanda Tharoor later told The Indian Express. “That woman pursued and pursued him…men are stupid anyways…for all you know she is a Pakistani agent. Where’s love, where’s loyalty in this world…I am so distraught.” Sunanda Tharoor said she felt “destroyed as a wife and a woman” over her husband’s “rip-roaring affair” with the Pakistani journalist which she claimed had been going on since April last year. Sunanda Tharoor also claimed there have been a series of Blackberry Messenger exchanges between her husband and the Pakistani journalist in which, among other things, the possibilities of his divorce with her have also been discussed.

It may be possible that there was no affair between Mehr Tarar and Shashi Tharoor. Mehr Tarar claims that she met Shashi Tharoor twice, once in April for the interview and once in June in Dubai and they stayed in touch. It is also true that many people use affectionate language more easily than others, but "I go while in love with you, irrevocably, irreversibly, hamesha. Bleeding, but always your Mehr" is stretching that one.

Mehr Tarar claimed that Sunanda Tharoor had put her life in danger and threatened a defamation suit. Media reports she denied having an affair with Shashi Tharoor, though there are no direct quotes. On the other hand, she has not denied that the messages posted as sent by her are false. Media apparently did not think it interesting to ask her if she denies sending these messages. Nor did the endangered Mehr Tarar see the need to end the danger by claiming that she had sent no such messages to an Indian minister.

There is no question of why someone would send messages like that to a public figure and risk her life if they were to be found, and further goad an already suspicious wife and increase the risk that they could be made public.

Media, has gone in damage control mode with an "intimate" email from Mehr Tarar to Shashi Tharoor in June "leaked" (we saw a lot of very convenient leaky emails in the Tarun Tejpal rape episode too) where she is "understanding" about the difficulties he faces with his wife and talks about how suspicion will see wrong in relationships between man and woman.


Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims
Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor and discussion with prominent Congress handle about what is obviously a sneer at a Congress politician's wife seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims

This does not explain the BBM messages, nor is this understanding in evidence in her interactions with her "friend's wife" who "misunderstands" her relationship with him - given the content of the messages, there seems little room to misunderstand. This sly tweet doesn't seem to be speaking like someone who understands that the subject is "loved" by her "friend" who is "happy" with her.

Nor does this response to Sunanda Tharoor's tweets sound like she has the least interested in her supposed friend's marriage not suffering from a misunderstanding over her, regardless of her halo in media.

The blonde's aqal is weaker thn her grammar & spellings.From an 'affair' it has become 'stalking'..make up yr mind, darlin'.Which one is it?

Neither sound like a professional journalist covering politics speaking of a interview subject and foreign politician's wife. They are bitchy and they are personal. Media does not seem to have seen fit to question this either, though there is an abundance of damage control quotes.

Again, Mehr Tarar may merely be a groupie with serious immaturity issues, but that is most certainly not Sunanda Tharoor's hallucination and no one bothered to ask Mehr Tarar any uncomfortable questions. It is almost as if media expected she would give a sound byte saying "Yes, I am in love with Shashi Tharoor" or "Yes, I am an ISI agent" if it were true. And it is a private matter otherwise. I mean why get in the way of Aman ki Asha?

There seem to be several journalists who think it is social media that did Sunanda Tharoor in, even though the problem broke on Twitter, but happened in private messages and emails. No clear logic is provided and to me, the only explanation seems to be that the problem was the scandal, and not what Sunanda Tharoor went through. Media at its khap panchayat best. That halo is sure easy to adjust depending on who the subject of the "hot news" is.

I don't doubt that social media can do people in. God knows there are enough episodes of internet bullying that lead to suicides. But is that correct in this case, or is it media's guilt over being on the wrong side of Sunanda Tharoor, till Sunanda Pushkar committed suicide and all of a sudden they know her by the maiden name she used before marrying Tharoor and are raiding Mehr Tarar's Facebook photos (I presume - she gave permission at added grave risk to herself) to publish "who is this woman" type articles?

Sunanda Tharoor was viewed as a tamasha when she was making revelations that devastated her. She was sent off to page 3 and her accusations reduced to a "catfight" as Twitter calls it. Headlines spoke about how Sunanda Pushkar created a problem or embarrassment rather than made grave allegations about Member of Parliament.

Shashi Tharoor, Sunanda Pushkar row: I have been put in jeopardy, says Mehr Tarar


Shashi Tharoor caught in tweet war between Sunanda Pushkar, Pak woman journalist Mehr Tarar

for example. Who except Sunanda Pushkar has had to defend their actions?


Apparently, media did not think it relevant to India if an Indian Parliamentarian was sending and receiving intimate messages from a foreigner to the point of discussing divorcing his wife. Not to mention Sunanda Tharoor's accusations of Mehr Tarar being an ISI agent - whether true or false. Shashi Tharoor was not asked for confirmation or denial of those messages, nor was Mehr Tarar.

Mehr Tarar and Shashi Tharoor may have refused to speak to media on some subjects, but Sunanda Pushkar most certainly was speaking. Her allegations about the IPL dropped like a rock in pond. Media simply didn't hear them, it seems. No further questioning. Best cover that up.


So media's message was clear. This is nothing, just some entertainment getting TRPs because it targets a celebrity politician.

In contrast, media has gone to great lengths to shield Shashi Tharoor. His supposed statement on his Facebook account, claiming to be from both Sunanda and him has gone unquestioned as his last word on the subject - both before and after his wife's death.

There are no questions raised about the body being cremated before the nature of her injuries was disclosed.

And of course, Rahul Bhatia's blunt observation 

Shortly after the Economic Times piece, the news channel NDTV got Pushkar on the phone for an interview. They didn’t ask her about the “crimes of this man.” At one point during the live phone conversation, when Pushkar said she regretted choosing silence during the cricket controversy, the interviewer changed the subject, “Ma’am, you do realize you’re live on NDTV? Also, aren’t you worried the BJP [the party in opposition] will take up this issue?” The channel’s concern for the minister’s career, not the details of Pushkar’s revelation, was dismaying.

So you have this woman speaking of betrayal and heart break and making accusations which most certainly have national implications, and she is the only one to get asked tough questions. Which obviously means a media silencing or disbelief - if media believed that the accusation was serious, they would give more of a damn about the implications of it being true, right? Her cry of distress was effectively rendered toothless by a spineless media, leaving her to the fallout and her husband to impunity. What other escalation remained to her after such a humiliation?

So which media "outlet" has a quote or denial on record whether the messages Sunanda Tharoor leaked were true or malicious inventions by her?

Even after she died in their aftermath? So you tell me, did TWITTER kill Sunanda Tharoor?


Shashi Tharoor returned from the AICC meet to his hotel suite he shared with his wife Sunanda Tharoor at around 8:30pm and found her dead. Her body seemed undisturbed and was lying in bed, according to Shashi Tharoor's PS, Abhinav Kumar, who called the police.

Separately, DNA reported that Sunanda Pushkar (her surname before marrying Shashi Tharoor) may have committed suicide by hanging herself.

The contradictory reports seem to be in line with an ongoing conflict between Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Pushkar/Tharoor, where both seemed to be claiming things directly contradicting each other, without confronting each other either.

Their marriage was said to be in trouble, and Sunanda Tharoor had made several disturbing tweets from Shashi Tharoor's Twitter account that seemed to be BBM messages between a Pakistani journalist and Shashi Tharoor. Their response to this whole episode was also very strange. While Shashi Tharoor's Facebook account was putting out messages that the account had been hacked and that he and his wife were happy, Sunanda Tharoor seemed to be taking responsibility for the tweets and angry over the alleged relationship.

shashi sunanda tharoor joint statement
Shashi Tharoor and Sunanda Tharoor's joint statement about Mehr Tarar controversy

The Pakistani journalist in question, Meher Tarar, in the meanwhile denied any relationship with Shashi Tharoor and made several taunts regarding Sunanda Tharoor's allegations, implying that they were outrageous. Here are the key tweets as reported in India Today:

tweets by late sunanda tharoor, shashi tharoor and meher tarar
Key tweets from the controversy involving Sunanda Tharoor, Shashi Tharoor and Meher Tarar

Sunanda Tharoor seems to have gone back and forth regarding Shashi Tharoor's involvement. At times speaking of his treatment of her in spite of her taking on his guilt, or speaking of him being a "man" and thus interested or prey to a predatory Meher Tarar. At other times she speaks of being happy with Shashi Tharoor.

She has made allegations of stalking against Meher Tarar. At other times she has accused her of being an ISI agent hacking into Shashi Tharoor's computer and making many calls.

Meher Tarar on her part seems outraged by the accusations and now saddened by news of her death.

At the same time there seems to be a history between the two women. For example, this tweet made well before Sunanda Tharoor's accusations.

Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims
Mehr Tarar's sly tweet about Sunanda Tharoor seems far from the limited relationship with Shashi Tharoor that she claims

But the oddness had always seemed a bit apparent to me. Right from the beginning, when Sunanda Tharoor got groped in a mob by a Congress worker and did not file a complaint. That seemed really odd and disempowered for the wife of a senior leader mistreated within the organization.

In recent days, her Twitter conversations at least were more with right wing and AAP related handles than Congress ones, which is what one would expect, considering that she was the wife of a senior leader and Member of Parliament. She also seems to be very candid with all. The laguage of the type of suspecting ISI agents or "we Hindus" and such is also very outside what one sees with the Congress. There is no sense of .... inclusion (?) with his world.

For example, in Mehr Tarar' tweet, which seems to be talking of Sunanda Tharoor, the person she offers to DM the name to is a popular Congress handle. So you have a Pakistani handle gossiping with a Congress worker about the wife of a senior Congress politician. Hardly an uninvolved and professional relationship that she appears to be claiming. For that matter, Mehr Tarar on the whole seems to connect far more with Congress handles than her. This may not be deliberate, but it could add to someone already feeling excluded?

Her body has gone for a post mortem, and we will probably know more soon, but combined with the many mentions of her health problems and needing rest and so on, along with the overall lack of caution in her public tweets, reminds me oddly of my mother when her schizophrenia was at its worst, with the ever changing suspicions against specific people and the suffering she went through because of them. This is not to say this is the case with Sunanda Tharoor, just that her vulnerability and helplessness to deal with a perceived dire threat beyond raging at it and getting little result touched a chord in me with what I saw my mother go through.

There is a vague guilt in me that I commented on her tweets, but did not reach out to her, in spite of recognizing that she needed help before she died.

And a part of me wonders if I ignored her because she was a public figure, assuming that she had resources. Obviously, I could not do much, but hasn't experience taught me that what we most need is a compassionate ear? Strange how I have no hesitation reaching out to so many women, but I didn't, in her case, even when I had seen the need. Or perhaps it is survivor's guilt. "What if"

Of course, it is possible that Shashi Tharoor was really having an affair. Mixed and contradictory reports indicate that she was very angry and seeking a divorce, others say that she did not seem depressed and denied that Shashi Tharoor was having an affair, though she accused Mehr consistently, if about varied things. Then there are the tweets where she said that Shashi Tharoor and she were happy together.

Clearly investigations will happen about her accusations, as well as the cause of her death and we will know more soon.

Of course, the alternative theory is believing her ISI related accusations about Mehr Tarar, as Madhu Kishwar has gone ahead and done by declaring Sunanda Tharoor "eliminated" already. Several others on this track believe she was eliminated because of the accusations, which is rather strange considering that they would now be rigorously examined instead of merely being gossip fodder. Another person found it strange that she didn't tweet if she was taking such a drastic step. So you get the idea. There are all kinds of opinions and little information out there.

Men's Rights Activists have started demanding a dowry case against Shashi Tharoor because they were married less than 7 years, quite forgetting that it isn't a criminal case that is mandatory, but a post mortem. Delhi police have asked a magistrate to conduct an inquiry into her death, since they were married for less than seven years.

Every vulture is going to pick at this one for their own ends. I feel sorry for Shashi Tharoor already.

Or the truth may be something else altogether.

Obviously, this story is going to explode in the days to come.


Ramkrishna Paramahamsa once shared this parable:

A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: 'It is like a pillar.' This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.

Over the ages, this simple Indian story has made the rounds of various religions, commutinites, cultures and even countries. It is time we it came back to us too.

Today, we have as many elephants as there are blind men, all intent on the trees and missing the woods. It seems that we have such a high opinion of our intellect that anything we did not say is wrong. It is only a matter of arguing enough to find that mistake. We can do that.

Here are some of our elephants:

Elephant: Corruption and Scams are a problem with the governance of the country.

  • Blind Man 1: This is a problem with the unchecked misconduct of the leadership of the country. We need an independent Lokpal
  • Blind Man 2: The country is being hijacked by unconstitutional elements
  • Blind Man 3: This is a result of people not voting
  • Blind Man 4: This is because of a lack of honesty in the common man's actions.

Elephant: Teach the Gita to all Indian children

  • Blind Man 1: The religious right is Talibanizing the country
  • Blind Man 2: This is repression
  • Blind Man 3: All religions or none should be taught
  • Blind Man 4: We are deviating from the defining values of our culture, much needed influence being opposed.

Elephant: Indian Muslim Women Film Stars used to be icons that RULED the scene. Not any more

  • Blind Man 1: Repression and intolerance increasing among Muslims
  • Blind Man 2: No such thing is happening - some actresses exist
  • Blind Man 3: Decreasing opportunities for Muslims
  • Blind Man 4: Other communities entering the industry

Elephant: Kashmir

  • Blind Man 1: Azadi
  • Blind Man 2: Pakistani Propaganda
  • Blind Man 3: Indian repression
  • Blind Man 4: Human rights abuse

Elephant: Laws to control the internet

  • Blind Man 1: Necessary security initiative
  • Blind Man 2: Violation of privacy
  • Blind Man 3: Security risk to sensitive information of individuals
  • Blind Man 4: Nothing to hide

Elephant: Slutwalk

  • Blind Man 1: Wrong name. Trivializing serious issue.
  • Blind Man 2: Much needed initiative. Absolutely correct.
  • Blind Man 3: May provoke retaliatory abuse
  • Blind Man 4: It is hopeless. Society will never change.

And the list goes on... I am sure you know a few. Do share.

Rumi ends The Elephant in the Dark with:

The eye of the Sea is one thing and the foam another. Let the foam go, and gaze with the eye of the Sea. Day and night foam-flecks are flung from the sea: oh amazing! You behold the foam but not the Sea. We are like boats dashing together; our eyes are darkened, yet we are in clear water.

Enough said.

Note: If you comment more elephants and blind men, I'll add to list.