Journalist Rajdeep Sardesai has said the Shiv Sena should not act like a “local militia” while responding to Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray’s justification of his party’s opposition to the release of a book by Pakistan’s former foreign minister and a concert by ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali.
Aaditya, the son of Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, outlined his party’s position while replying to Sardesai’s open letter questioning the Sena’s actions. Aaditya’s response, in turn, led to another open letter from Sardesai.
The Shiv Sena, part of Maharashtra’s ruling coalition, has been widely criticised for forcing the cancellation of two concerts by Ghulam Ali and for smearing former BJP member Sudheendra Kulkarni, one of the organisers for the release of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book, with black paint on Monday.
“Of course non-violent incidents like ink shed on some by a certain few parties would anger you to tag it as violence, but otherwise it would be democratic and historic. Ink spilt may be more violent for you than its intent to protest against all the innocent blood spilt on the streets of Mumbai, Jammu and Kashmir, every city that has faced Pakistan-sponsored terrorism,” Aaditya wrote in a letter released by the Shiv Sena.
Aaditya referred to families of soldiers killed by Pakistani forces or terrorists and said efforts by India to forge peaceful relations with Pakistan had never been reciprocated. The Shiv Sena, he said, supports peace talks with “a caution of betrayal”.
He wrote: “Let’s not forget every terrorist attack, the train blasts, the 26/11 attacks (which I escaped unhurt narrowly, from our very own college...as I was rehearsing on a play we were working on), and many more in the (Kashmir) Valley that we wake up to, every day and every month...”
In response to Aaditya’s letter, Sardesai noted that the Shiv Sena “is a political party, not a local militia”. The party, across generations of leaders, has been “consistent in justifying violence but it should now “move away from the politics of ‘thokshahi’ to a focussed approached on job creation”, he said.
Terrorism, Sardesai said, has to be defeated with a “zero tolerance for the terrorist, not by holding every Pakistani guilty for the acts of a Lashkar or an ISI”. Isolating Pakistan is not the answer and people must build “global opinion against Pak-based terror”.
“Maybe, you are a victim of an image trap but when you have spent 48 years as a political party bashing up South Indians, North Indians, Muslims, then the image of being a party that endorses violence will stick,” Sardesai wrote.
Earlier, Sardesai wrote in his first open letter: “You have every right to feel strongly about Pak-based terror. You have every right to dislike Mr Kasuri. But if you don’t like him or Pakistan, or his book, don’t read it, boycott the function, wear a black band. Ditto with Ghulam Ali. But what gives you or the Sena’s goons the right to physically attack the organisers or force the government to call off a concert?”
He added: “If Maharashtra’s asmita has to be defended, maybe Sainiks should go to Marathwada and help farm widows in distress. Or is that not the kind of front page news your party seeks?”
Would be good to know how many Shiv Sainiks have gone to Kashmir to show solidarity with jawans or attended funerals of soldiers.— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) October 12, 2015
In his second open letter, Sardesai questioned the Shiv Sena leader’s call for snapping normal ties with Pakistan by pointing out that Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nawaz Sharif had exchanged a handshake in the Russian city of Ufa and agreed to fight terror jointly.
“If you felt so strongly about Prime Minister Modi reaching out to Pakistan, then maybe you should have withdrawn from the Union cabinet?...And why was there no protest when Mr Kasuri was given a visa, or had a book release in Delhi that was attended by BJP stalwarts LK Advani and Yashwant Sinha?” Sardesai wrote.
Sardesai said his definition of violence was at variance with that of Aaditya. “I certainly see ink throwing as a violent, undemocratic act. The definition of non-violence in the dictionary is this: the use of peaceful means, not force to bring about social and political change...An AK-47 kills, ink blackens the face: the effect maybe vastly different, but both get their legitimacy from brazen use of muscle power,” he added.
“What message are we sending out to the policemen if their leaders encourage violation of the law? And if you feel that Devendra Fadnavis is wrong in providing security to the former Pakistani foreign minister, then why not take a black flag protest to Mantralaya, why seek to prevent those Mumbaikars who may want to attend a book function from doing so?” Sardesai wrote.