Culture vulture: When minister Mahesh Sharma sparked controversies

  • Simar Bhasin, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 24, 2015 21:19 IST
Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma has been in the news in recent weeks for controversial comments regarding women, religion and culture but said he was quoted out of context. (Burhaan Kinu / Hindustan Times)

Union culture minister Mahesh Sharma sparked another row when he said Hindu holy books such as the Gita, Ramayana and Mahabharata are “ideal granths (texts)” that teach moral values. He didn’t stop there, adding they don’t prescribe any particular faith whereas the Bible and Quran are purely religious books.

The 56-year-old BJP leader, described on his Lok Sabha webpage as “a staunch follower of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) since childhood”, has been in the limelight for his religious and patriarchal views. Here are a few more instances where Sharma spoke about what he thinks comprises “Indian culture”.

Girls’ night out not part of India’s ‘culture’

Sharma thinks “girls wanting a night out” is “not part of Indian culture”. We are all too familiar with the likes of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and their comments on issues such as rape and the derogatory light in which such politicians view the female sex. Commentators on social media were quick to react to Sharma’s insensitive remarks, with a user saying: “So do v hav 2 Agree 2 everything you say, Culture minister Mahesh Sharma? Are you our Agree-Culture Minister, Farming pre-historic values?”

Showcasing his staunch patriarchal views, Sharma had in an earlier interview said that “in our culture women of three generations cook food in the same kitchen” while “in Europe, a 16-year-old leaves home”.

Culture pollution

In another interview, Sharma was quoted as saying that “we will cleanse every area of public discourse that has been westernised and where Indian culture and civilisation need to be restored — be it the history we read, our cultural heritage or our institutes that have been polluted over years”.

Our dear culture minister wants to rid the country of what he describes as “culture pollution”. His views on how to combat this “pollution” include making Hindi “compulsory in all schools”, totally ignoring the diversity that characterises India or its “culture”.

Kalam was a nationalist despite being a Muslim

Perhaps giving us an insight into what is meant by this “pollution”, Sharma commented on the recent renaming of Delhi’s Aurangzeb Road after late President APJ Abdul Kalam by saying, “We have renamed Aurangzeb Road after a person, who despite being a Muslim, is a great nationalist....”

Twitterati were quick to react to Sharma, with hashtags #DespiteBeingAMuslim and #DespiteBeingACultureMinister trending minutes later his statement.

Discussing national policy with RSS

All of Sharma’s pearls of wisdom are summarised in his next statement: “Has there been any act of RSS against national interest? Then why criticise RSS? What is wrong in discussing national policy with RSS?”

Columnist Tavleen Singh summed it up in her remarks when she tweeted: “Please Prime Minister sack your Culture Minister or get him to stop telling Indians what their culture is. He hasn’t a clue.”

Of course, there were the inevitable denials from this “soldier of the Modi government” after each of his controversial remarks.

(The views expressed by the writer are personal. She tweets as @simarb_92)

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