Sudheendra Kulkarni, who heads the Observer Research Foundation, was on Monday attacked by alleged Shiv Sena members who threw black ink on his face ahead of a book launch of Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s in Mumbai.
Kulkarni blamed the Shiv Sena for the attack on him and said the group had threatened to disrupt the launch of Kasuri’s book Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy in “typical Shiv Sena style”. He announced the launch, which is being organised by the foreign policy think-tank, will go ahead as planned.
“I welcome Kasuri to this great city. I thank him for coming even though we already had indications about some forces threatening him,” Kulkarni told a news conference hours after his face was smeared with ink.
The Shiv Sena’s threat to disrupt the launch came days after a warning from the party led to the cancellation of concerts in Mumbai and Pune by acclaimed Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali.
Kasuri, who was by Kulkari’s side during the joint press conference, said he is not depressed by such things as there are people on both sides who don’t want good ties between India and Pakistan.
“I have been a political worker myself, I understand political protests, but it should be in a peaceful manner. I recognise people’s right to protest, but what has happened with Sudheendra Kulkarni is not protest,” he said.
“Nations are made with a positive mindset, we need a positive mindset,” he added.
‘Blood of our martyrs’
While the Sena called the “ink attack” a “mild” one and warned that until the “message is received” such attacks will keep on happening, several leaders across the political spectrum condemned the incident.
“This is not ink, but the blood of our martyrs on his face. He should feel ashamed for siding with Pakistan’s chamchaas. This much reaction just because of a little ink on his face? You cannot stop people as they have pent up hatred against Pakistan in their minds,” senior Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut told ANI.
Raut said his party has nothing against him personally, but banning Pakistani artists and diplomats who came to India was the only way of sending a strong message to the hostile neighbour.
“Those who support Pakistan’s chamchaas are going against the nation in every way and if someone dubs patriotism as violence, then what can you say about the Indian freedom struggle against the British? The Shiv Sena will continue to protest against Pakistan in all in every way,” Raut added.
Even though he did not claim responsibility for the attack on Kulkarni, Raut said that if the Sena is being accused for the attack then “so be it”.
When asked what the Shiv Sena plans to do during Kasuri’s book launch later in the evening, Raut gave no hint of his or his party’s intentions.
“I cannot tell you what we will or won’t do. What happened today was not done on a specific order. It is the anger that people have against Pakistan and when this rage cannot be bottled, what are you going to do?” Raut said.
‘Matter of concern’
BJP patriarch LK Advani strongly condemned the attack on his one-time aide and voiced concern over “growing intolerance” in the country towards any counter viewpoint.
“In the last few days, there are these signs... where any person or any point of view is not acceptable, then you resort to violence or turn intolerant towards them,” Advani said.
“This is a matter of concern for the nation. Democracy must ensure tolerance for a different point of view,” he added.
Union minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju disapproved of incident saying everyone has the freedom to protest but not physically harm anyone.
“This is about mentality... In this country, everyone has a fundamental right to protest but there has to be a way to protest, not physically harm anyone. This is not right,” he told reporters.
Rijiju said acts like smearing black paint on someone’s face should not have happened as there are ways to protest in a civilised society.
“The Constitution has given right to everyone to protest in a democratic way. One should only lodge protest under the law and this will act to strengthen our democracy,” he said.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis while promising complete security for the event , disapproved of Shiv Sena’s protests saying the issue has brought disrepute to the state.
He added, “We may not agree with views of somebody, but when a foreign dignitary or a diplomat arrives on a valid visa and holds a programme, which is not illegal, it’s the duty of a state to provide protection, ” he said.
The chief minister said there could have been better ways to put forth the point of view by Shiv Sena.
“We cannot endorse Mr Kasuri, but can’t let our state turn into banana republic. The rule of law has prevailed. I think the way things have happened has brought a bad name to our state. There could have been better ways to put forth a point of view,” he added.
Sign of intolerance
While the Bharatiya Janata Party condemned the act saying no one should be so intolerant, it also sounded a word of caution before jumping to conclusion.
“... we also need to see if it was official Shiv Sena’s line or whether the Shiv Sena distances itself from this act of vandalism,” BJP leader Sudesh Verma said.
Congress’ Digvijaya Singh expressed his solidarity with Kulkarni saying he has his full support.
“Strongly condemn most dastardly attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni by Shiv Sainiks Udhav Thakre must control his goons,” Singh wrote on Twitter.
“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,” he added.
CPI leader D Raja said the 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.”
Omar Abdullah, National Conference leader, tweeted, “#Pakistankachamcha seems to be the tag for anyone who doesn’t want to bomb Pakistan back in to the dark ages.”
(With agency inputs)