Mumbai: Shiv Sena activists on Monday 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 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 failed to get 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.
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.
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.”front