Mumbai | Shiv Sena activists today smeared black paint on ORF chairman Sudheendra Kulkarni’s face for refusing to cancel former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book launch here.
When I got out of my home this morning, a group of Shiv Sainiks stopped my car. When I came out, they smeared me with black paint. They abused me, Kulkarni alleged and said that his Observer and Research Foundation (ORF), a foreign policy think-tank, will go ahead with the planned book launch by Kasuri later today despite the attack.
We won’t be cowed down by such events and the book launch will happen as planned, he said and soon after was present at a media interaction along with Kasuri while still drenched in paint. Mumbai police spokesperson Dhananjay Kulkarni said the incident occurred in front of Kulkarni’s house near Kings circle in suburban Matunga at around 9.30 AM.
About 5-7 unknown persons shouted some slogans and threw colour or ink on him, he said, adding city police will provide security for the event to prevent any untoward incident. The attack drew sharp condemnation from parties, with Congress saying that the idea of India as the most liberal democratic country, despite all our neighbours having gone the other way, is being destroyed in the root.
Defending the action of party activists, senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut said smearing ink is a very mild form of democratic protest. They are so upset about ink. Imagine when our soldiers are killed and their blood is spilled. It is not ink, it is the blood of our soldiers. Nobody can foretell how public anger will explode.
People in the country are angry over the violence and bloodshed by Pakistan. We do not have anything personal against Kasuri or anyone else, Raut said. Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’, which was recently unveiled in Delhi, was set to be lauched in Mumbai today. Sena had demanded that the event be scrapped and had threatened to disrupt it.
Kulkarni, who has served as speechwriter for BJP veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani, had met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence ‘Matoshree’ here late last night, but left without getting any assurance from him. Kasuri said he was most upset over the unfortunate incident and asserted that while he respected the right to protest, it should be done in a democratic manner.
The Pakistani leader said the main purpose of his visit was to talk about the peace process between India and Pakistan during his tenure. Pakistan and India are not born to hate each other. If there are men of goodwill on both sides, situation could easily change…. That is what is contained in my book and I thought it was important to give this message, he said.
The Shiv Sena had earlier threatened to disrupt Ghulam Ali’s concerts, leading to cancellation of the Pakistani ghazal singer’s events in Mumbai and Pune recently. Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi claimed incidents of intolerance have risen over the last 18 months after the BJP came to power. I cannot find words strong enough to condemn the incident. It is not a case of Kulkarni or Kasuri.
It is the case of liberal democratic ethos of India…. Almost every day, we are witnessing such incidents.. they are creating mutual antagonism. There is a clear connection with the party in power, with a remote control in Nagpur. The only person who can stop this is the Prime Minister and, unfortunately, he keeps silence on these issues, he said. CPI leader D Raja said that Sena’s actions were highly deplorable.
Shiv Sena should not resort to such politics which is not in line with the Constitution. Such actions show intolerance and also that it is against any effort to build good relations with Pakistan, he said. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh slammed the attack on Kulkarni saying such intolerance in India can’t be tolerated. First Ghulam Ali concert and now Kasuri’s book launch, we don’t want a Desi Taliban in India.
In a series of tweets, he said all Liberals who are against such Talibani Hooliganism must come out to support the book launch. Singh said he strongly condemns the most dastardly attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni by Shiv Sainiks and Uddhav Thakrey must control his goons. After Sena’s threat, Maharashtra’s Home department, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had assured the organiser of full security.
Sudheendra Kulkari thanked the Chief Minisiter saying he had taken a princpled and firm stand. On his meeting with Sena hief, Kulkarni said, I pointed out to Uddhavji that Kasuri should be allowed to put forth his views. I also told him that if Sena has a different view point, they could protest in a democratic, peaceful manner. The Sena president told me that unlike Ghulam Ali, Kasuri was not an artist but was part of the machinery which perpetrated terror, he said.
I told Uddhavji that as they (Sena) have a right to protest peacefully, we also have the right to hold the programme, he said. I informed him that Kasuri was Pakistan foreign minister during 2002-07 and was not a minister when the 2008 Mumbai terror attack happened, he said. It was brought to the Sena leader’s attention that Kasuri in his book has criticised non-state actors perpetrating terror, he said.
The Sena, which shares power with the BJP in Maharashtra, has written to the director of Worli’s Nehru Centre to cancel the event because of the Pakistan connection.
Sena also hit out at parties who attacked it for the incident. The stooges of Pakistan are upset over the incident. Why doesn’t their blood boil, when our soldiers’ blood is spilled and innocents lose their live in terror attacks, Sena leader Raut said.
AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon demanded immediate arrest of those involved in the attack on Kulkarni. It is a shame that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has totally failed to provide law and order in the state capital. BJP’s coalition partner Shiv Sena has started a reign of cultural terrorism in Mumbai akin to the Taliban. They threatened the organisers of the Ghulam Ali show and got it cancelled a few days back, she said.
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