Mumbai stands for peace and dialogue between India and Pakistan, writer and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni said on Monday, hours after he had his face blackened by alleged Shiv Sena activists for inviting former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri to release his book in the city.
Unfazed by a protest by the Sena, organisers went ahead with the launch of Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk, Nor a Dove’ at a function in Mumbai.
“We shall defend and safeguard the values that Mumbai has stood for; we will not let any organisation trample those values,” Kulkarni said at the function attended by Kasuri.
The event was held amid tight security for the visiting dignitary in the wake of Shiv Sena’s threat to disrupt the function. Kasuri himself echoed the sentiments after the morning’s ink attack outside the house of Kulkarni, chairman of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), the think-tank and organiser of the book launch show.
“I would like to thank chief minister Mr Devendra Fadnavis for providing excellent protection (provided to him) ever since I landed in Mumbai airport (last evening),” Kasuri said at the book launch.
Taking a jibe at the Shiv Sena, Kulkarni welcomed the former Pakistan minister to the megapolis of Mumbai in Marathi.
“I also express my deepest gratitude to all of you who have come to attend the function notwithstanding the extraordinary circumstances in which it is being held.
“This shows your resolve, our resolve and common resolve, the resolve of millions of Mumbaikars to defend the values of tolerance and diversity,” Kulkarni said while making opening remarks at the event held at Nehru Centre in Mumbai.
Kulkarni said: “I have told (Shiv Sena chief) Uddhav Thackeray ji that he shouldn’t think that every Pakistani is against India.”
It was attended among others by noted lawyer and historian AG Noorani, journalist Dileep Padgaonkar and film actor Naseeruddin Shah, who were panelists at the launch.
Without naming Shiv Sena, Kulkarni evoked President Pranab Mukherjee’s recent remarks that “tolerance and diversity and core values of Indian civilisation and these must be defended”.
“Mumbai cherishes the right to dissent. Mala maay Marathi baddal, Marathi Mumbai baddal apaar abhiman aahe. Mumbai Maharashtriy aahe, parantu tyachyadhi Mumbai rashtriy aahe, aantarrashtriy aahe (I am immensely proud of Marathi, Mumbai. Mumbai is Maharashtrian, but before that it is national and international city),” he said.
He said Mumbai has a very special place in India’s freedom Movement with Mahatma Gandhi and Muhammed Ali Jinnah spending “maximum years” substantial part of their lives in the city, which served as “karma bhoomi” of both the leaders.
He referred to a line from the book “na banduk se na goli se, baat banegi boli se”, insisting dialogue between the two countries must go on irrespective of circumstances.
“New history can only be created through dialogue...the two governments must continue dialogue. Our function is in that direction,” Kulkarni said.
For his part, Kasuri said his purpose behind writing the book was to “correct perceptions” amongst people of the neighbouring nations.
Actor Naseeruddin Shah, who was a guest during the book launch, rejected the Sena’s charge that Indian artistes were not allowed to visit the neighbouring country.
“I went to Pakistan several times but never has a performance been disrupted, disturbed or even threatened,” he said. “I have never had to carry any security. I wish we could have afforded the kind of welcome to Kasuri the kind of love I have always received.”
The Sena was snubbed by the citizens as well as the government as the function organised at Nehru Science Centre in Worli was held as scheduled.