Congress Working Committee (CWC) member Shashi Tharoor, MP, appeared to have put his party in an awkward spot by purportedly referring to Hamas as a terrorist organisation at the mammoth rally organised by the Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) in Kozhikode on October 26, 2023 to proclaim solidarity with the Palestine cause.
Congress leadership in Kerala was yet to react to the contentious usage, which drew onstage criticism from IUML leaders M.K. Muneer, MLA, and M.P. Abdussamad Samadani. Both termed their opposition to Israel’s expansionist policies in Gaza and the West Bank as “legitimate resistance.”
(IUML is a staunch Congress ally and a prominent constituent in the United Democratic Front (UDF) Opposition in Kerala.)
On October 27 (Friday), Mr. Tharoor denied the imputation. He said some quarters had cherry-picked his speech to inject parochial politics into a global humanitarian cause. He said the address was solidly and unequivocally pro-Palestine when viewed in its entirety.
IUML national general secretary P.K. Kunhalikutty, MLA, sought to end the row. He welcomed Mr. Tharoor’s clarification and said provincial politics had no bearing on the IUML’s decision to rally public opinion in favour of Palestine’s oppressed, starved, and terrorised people.
He said the IUML had invited Mr. Tharoor as the chief guest to the rally in recognition of his global experience and international stature. The IUML would defeat efforts to rob the pro-Palestine rally’s relevance, political message and sheen.
Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)] State secretariat member M. Swaraj was bitingly critical of Mr. Tharoor’s speech.
In a Facebook post, Mr. Swaraj alleged that Mr. Tharoor had used the IUML’s public platform to relay his solidarity with Israel.
“Mr. Tharoor appeared to imply somewhat reductively that the incendiary Palestine problem had its genesis in Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7. And the current genocidal attacks on the besieged people of Palestine were Israel’s legitimate response. Mr. Tharoor seemed pointedly disinclined to term Israel a terrorist nation”, wrote Mr. Swaraj.
Left independent legislator and a sharp critic of the IUML, K.T. Jaleel, MLA, said the IUML rally seemed to express solidarity with expansionist and imperialistic Israel and its backers instead of solidly rallying behind the tyrannised and terrorised people of Palestine.
CPI(M) State secretary M. V. Govindan seemed to take a relatively softer line, given the party’s outreach to minority communities to whittle the electoral prospects of the right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections and its empathy towards the anti-BJP INDIA bloc opposition partnership.
Mr. Govindan seemed reluctant to confront Mr. Tharoor by stating that the Congress leader had “explained.”
Mr. Govindan also seemed to pussyfoot around whether the party viewed Hamas as a terrorist outfit. He merely said the CPI(M) stance on the Palestine question was clear.
Last week, Mr. Govindan had fielded the same question by stating that he would not elaborate on Hamas’s “class nature.”
“I am not going to elaborate on the class nature of Hamas. The CPI(M) is concerned about the rights of the Palestinian people. Communists reckon them as an oppressed class and exiles in their land. A hostile Israel has hedged in Palestine from three sides. Palestinians have only the sea to flee to,” Mr. Govindan had said.
Suresh Gopi’s support
Mr. Tharoor found some support in BJP leader Suresh Gopi, who termed Hamas a terrorist organisation inimical to the welfare of Palestinians. “Mr. Tharoor would not make an off-the-cuff statement”, Mr. Gopi said.
BJP State president K. Surendran appeared to take a harsher line against Mr. Tharoor and the IUML. He called the rally an open display of support for Hamas, a terrorist outfit that massacred Israeli civilians.
“Mr. Tharoor had no business attending the rally that went against the grain of India’s stance on the issue in the United Nations”, Mr. Surendran said.