Sudheendra Kulkarni, former close aide of senior BJP leader LK Advani, attacked by the activists of Shiv Sena in Mumbai early Monday morning. Shiv Sena activists smeared black paint on Mr. Kulakrni’s face, currently the Chairman of a prominent foreign policy think-tank ORF, protesting against the book launch by Pakistan’s ex-foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, an event by ORF. While, the shocking incident drew sharp criticism by several parties, Shiv Sena remained adamant in their protest to Mr. Kasuri.
However, the formal book launch happened under the heavy police bandobast at the Nehru Center Monday evening.
“We have to defend and safeguard the value which Mumbai has stood for…. Mumbai stands for India-Pak dialogue for peace. Today’s function is a demonstration that it indeed stands for it,” Sudheendra Kulkarni said amid applause at the book launch event.
“Want to thank Chief Minister Fadnavis for providing protection,” Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said in his opening remarks launching his book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy’.
Earlier in the day, around 10 Shiv Sena activists accosted and then attacked Sudheendra Kulkarni smearing black paint on his face. The Shiv Sena leadership had already threatened to disrupt the event, if it wasn’t called off.
“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,” Sudheendra Kulkarni said addressing a presser with his smeared face and soiled clothes.
“They told me if you don’t listen to us, this is what we can do,” said Mr. Kulkarni adding “We won’t be cowed down by such events and the book launch will happen as planned.”
Khurshid Kasuri, who sat next to Mr. Kulkarni throughout the presser said, “I recognise people’s right to protest, but what has happened with Sudheendra Kulkarni is not protest.”
“Nations are made with a positive mindset; we need a positive mindset,” the former Pakistan Foreign minister added as the press sought his reaction over the incident.
Meanwhile, defending the ink attack on Mr. Kulkarni, 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.”
Reacting to the incident, MoS Home Kiren Rijiju said, “everyone has a right to protest but there should be no physical harm done.
Earlier, in the midst of its ally’s open threat, BJP-Shiv Sena run Maharashtra government had assured the organiser of full security. The state’s home department, which is headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had lent an assurance.
Mr. Kulkarni had even met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at the latter’s residence in Mumbai late on Sunday but left without getting any assurance. Apprising the press about his meeting with Mr. Thackeray, he said the Sena president told him that “unlike Ghulam Ali, Kasuri was not an artist but was part of the machinery which perpetrated terror.”
Soon after the incident of ink attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni, political leaders across several parties and many Bollywood personalities strongly condemned the attack.
Condemning the incident on his former close aide, LK Advani said that there must be place for a different point of view in democracy.
The principal opposition party too denounced the attack strongly with Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi claiming that 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,” said Mr. Singhvi adding “the only person who can stop this is the Prime Minister and, unfortunately, he keeps silence on these issues.”
“The attack on Sudhendra Kulkarni ridicules our constitution, shames our police, & debunks our claims to be a democracy,” filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt posted on twitter.
Actor Rishi Kapoor too tweeted strongly denouncing the incident and the press conference held by Shiv Sena to defend the attack, “Excuse me! This is ridiculous and unpardonable. And to address a media conference in this manner? Politics!”
(With inputs from the PTI)