DOI: History, politics and culture have always been a dominant preoccupation of the Indian-English novelists. This compulsive obsession was perhaps inevitable since the genre originated and developed from concurrently with the climactic phase of colonial rules, the stirrings of nationalist sentiment and its full flowering in the final stages of the freedom movement. Neither writing nor criticism can avoid the call to justice forced on the world by the mushrooming of neo-liberal political and economic power. A reading of Riot makes it clear that Tharoor seems to be living his life on two levels.
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DOI: History, politics and culture have always been a dominant preoccupation of the Indian-English novelists. This compulsive obsession was perhaps inevitable since the genre originated and developed from concurrently with the climactic phase of colonial rules, the stirrings of nationalist sentiment and its full flowering in the final stages of the freedom movement.
Neither writing nor criticism can avoid the call to justice forced on the world by the mushrooming of neo-liberal political and economic power. A reading of Riot makes it clear that Tharoor seems to be living his life on two levels. While writing novel as history, Shashi Tharoor is no different from a journalist. He uses journalistic reporting, diary writing, and interviews to depict reality from a multiple point of view that concerns of his novel.
Nonetheless, taking history as its base, Tharoor revisits the past with objectivity and irony, and transforms it into historiographical meta-fiction which problimatizes history by presenting historical incidents and characters. Riot is based on the actual incident related to a riot that took place in Khargone, Madhya Pradesh. Instead of giving expression to some already existing reality or worldview the novel develops into a kind of discursive formation of ideas and an expression of divergent views forming specific relations to historical events.
Hence the historical events as well as the fictional happenings depicted in the novel offers multiplicity of perspectives and provide different versions of historical as well as the fictional truth. The plot of the novel starts with the death of an American social worker Priscilla Hart, during the sectarian violence in the wake of Babri Masjid agitation. There he meets the local chauvinistic Hindu fundamental leader Ram Charan Gupta to investigate the politics behind riot.
Gupta supports the cause of construction of Ram Mandir at Ayodhya. But the most famous temple is not really a temple anymore. A fit site for a grand temple…. In olden days a great temple stood there. There are legends about that pilgrims from all over India would come to worship Ram there. But a Muslim king, the Mughal emperor Babur, a foreigner from central Asia, knocked it down and in its place he built a big mosque, which was named after him, the Babri Masjid.
Naturally Hindu community was much hurt by this. To him, Muslims are evil people. He tells Mr. Wherever these Muslims are, they fight with others. For hundreds of years Indians suffered under the Muslim yoke. Then the British came, and things were no better. They thought then that after independence, everything would change. Most of the Muslims in Ayodhya left for Pakistan.
The mosque was no longer much needed as a mosque. Then, a miracle occurred. Some devotees found that an idol of Ram had emerged spontaneously in the courtyard of the mosque. It was clear sign from God. His temple had to be rebuilt on that sacred spot. Hindus went to courts. But they said that neither Hindus nor Muslims could worship there.
According to Mr. On the other hand, Mohammad Sarwar, a Muslim scholar, teaching in Department of History, Delhi University tries to defend the minority psyche of Muslims. There are prejudices in this country. India does not believe in secularism. Her citizens are radicals. The Hindutva brigade is trying to invent a new past for the nation, fabricating historical wrongs, degrading evidence of Muslim malfeasance and misappropriation of national glory.
They want to teach Muslims a lesson, though they have not learned many lessons themselves. He points out that Muslims are part of the indivisible unity that is Indian nationality. Without them this splendid structure of India is incomplete. They are the essential element, which has gone into building India.
They felt that Islam should prevail over the world as a whole, and thought it treasonous—both to India and to Islam itself. Gurinder Singh, a Sikh Cop whose sole mission is to control the riots no matter what the cost would be and most importantly Lakshman, an Oscar Wilde quoting district administrator believes in the futility of Ram Mandir cause.
He captures the essence of the whole show and tries to maintain harmony knowing that he is fighting a lost battle. Are there my history and his, and his history about my history? This is, in many ways, what this whole Ram Janamabhoomi agitation is about- about the reclaiming of history by those who feel that they were, at one point, written out of the script. But can they write a new history without doing violence to the inheritors of the old?
The beauty of the novel lies in the way the author points a very balanced picture of the views of the different communities, what really emerges is the conflict of communities rather than the conflict of religions. It is about the majority community, the Hindus trying to establish and reinforce their identity and the minority community, the Muslims, maintaining theirs. Each and every issue is politicized and it is the innocent victims like Priscilla who suffer.
Highlighting the conflicts in politics, Tharoor talks about the politicians of India who were responsible for Hindu- Muslim partition, the status quo existed at that time and how it was handled at their advantage.
The politicians exploit the mob psychology in the name of religion. As far as the shifting paradigms of power politics are concerned, the politics, instead of art of governing, has become the master art of mis-governance. The rule of law has been replaced by misrule by law and rule of lawlessness by rules and regulations.
The state agencies meant to administer are being misused to mal-administer. The police excesses and bureaucratic immoderation have become the order of the day. The power hungry hawkish politicians with their hellish and fiendish power politics stratagems are flirting and prostituting with religion for their personal and political gains. The self-style religious conmen are also pampering these political hucksters and tricksters without giving second thought to the irreparable damages being caused to the state, society and humanity.
This unholy nexus is considerably responsible for the problem of communalism is sowing the seeds of hatred and hostility in the name of religion. It has not only derailed all the processes of nation building, but also put the unity and integrity of the nation in jeopardy, denigrating the national prestige, trampling down the centuries old interaction, exchange, cooperation, accommodation and adjustment.
Moreover, the religious institutions have lost their sanctity. The Mandirs and Masjids have become pathways to parliament and assemblies. The unconscionable use of religion as a tool of exploitation has made India virtually a wounded civilization. It has dismantled the resilience and strength of Indian unity and integrity and created innumerable ugly divisions, cleavages and fissures in place of rich and variegated diversities and pluralities.
But, we, instead of learning lessons from the past repeat them with more vehemence. Hence, chaos, disorder, violence and riots have taken permanent place in our society. This sordid and squalid state of affairs has made India to appear godforsaken land. There is no sign of any progress. But the thousands of people have become the victim of the soil of Ayodhya.
He writes:. One factor that really keeps us glued to the book is the presentation of Priscilla-Lakshman relationship. It highlights contrasting features of two cultures—Western and Eastern, Occident and Orient. They represent the attitudes of two different cultures towards love, sex, and marriage in concrete terms.
But in India it is considered to be a sin, if a girl establishes any relation with a man before her marriage. Not America.
In America marriage is a bond between two lovers but in India, marriage is an arrangement between families, one of the means for perpetuating the social order. There are other details about Indian ways of life that give a multidimensional picture of India as something exotic to the foreign readers and observers. Priscilla Hart wrote to her friend Cindy Vateriani about some aspects of Indian social life that she considers striking and strange.
They are considered to be secondary and are marginalized- a plaything in the hands of their husbands, protectors or lord beings. Fatima Bi is caught in the cruel clutches of Ali Mohammad. He tortures and beats her regularly.
She is mother of seven children and leading a very poor and miserable life, still Ali forces her to give birth to his eighth child. Perhaps it shows poor people in India believe that children will contribute to family income and share the burden and responsibilities. Apart from the treatment of the issues above discussed, the novel also highlights violence against women.
Sundri- the married sister of Kadambari, a helper with Priscilla Hart, is a hapless prey of male-dominated society. Her husband, Rupesh, and mother-in-law regularly beat her. She is called a witch though the dowry of worth rupees one lakh is given at the time of her marriage; still she receives disgust and hatred. Her pregnancy is no longer an acceptable excuse for not doing the chores they want her to do. Moreover, her cruel husband and mother-in-law have tried to blaze her.
It shows that in our culture we worship women, and talk about giving a respectable status to women, but in reality we hardly care for this. There is wide gap between rhetoric and real world. Ours is gender biased society. The son is worshipped while the daughter is supposed to be a burden. Last but not least, Indians are superstitious. A typical Hindu believes in myths, stars and astrology.
She is very religious as well as superstitious.
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Added by 1 of our members. Riot A novel by Shashi Tharoor. Who killed twenty-four-year-old Priscilla Hart? And why would anyone want to murder this highly motivated, idealistic American student who had come to India to volunteer in women's health programs? Had her work make a killer out of an enraged husband? Or was her death the result of a xenophobic attack?