He does it to shock, to stay in the news. But when BJP leader Subramanian Swamy goes out of his way to spew venom on academics and Muslims, the party ought to tell him off. For months now, after he joined the BJP, the so-called maverick leader has been hitting out at all and sundry from Pakistan to Muslims to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. His latest bugbear is the historical works of Nehruvian and Leftist historians like Bipan Chandra and Romila Thapar. Their works, he feels, should be burnt. It is all too easy to dismiss him as a rent-a-quote politician, but many in the BJP's mentor organisation and other fringe Hindu groups like the VHP and Bajrang Dal will agree with Mr Swamy. The very fact that someone like Dina Nath Batra, with his bizarre views on akhand Bharat and 'westernised' birthdays, could get his books included in the Gujarat school curriculum shows that there are many takers for this kind of regressive thinking.
The two historians targeted by Mr Swamy are considered among the finest in the world, so it is passing strange that the BJP leader should prescribe destroying their works. This penchant to ban books seems to appeal to a particular brand of inward-looking politician whether it is an Aditya Thackeray or Mr Swamy. Now there are many loose cannons who will want bans or proscriptions on several things. The government of the day has a duty to distance itself from these, if the proponents happen to be from the ruling party, and take action against them if they cross the line and incite people to take the law into their hands.
In any modern society, there can always be several interpretations of history, it is for the reader to pick and choose. The freedom of choice cannot be curtailed because a certain view does not fit into the cookie cutter culture that some are attempting to foist on us. India is pluralistic, inclusive and multi-cultural. That is our great strength. People like Mr Swamy who try to make India a unidimensional country, intolerant of the points of view of all sections of people, be they historians or painters, are doing us a great disservice. The prime minister has made it clear that his vision for India is not a restricted one. In which event, it becomes incumbent on his government to rein in the likes of Mr Swamy. He must be told to stay within the party line before he does any further damage to our already fragile society.