NEW DELHI: Former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri survived dire threats from the rightwing Shiv Sena ahead of his book launch in Mumbai on Monday while his host Sudheendra Kulkarni was plastered with black paint by Pakistan-baiting protesters.
“I welcome Mr Kasuri to this great city. I thank him for coming even though we already had indications about some forces threatening him,” Mr Kulkarni told a news conference, hours after his face was smeared with paint. Mr Kasuri sat by his side at the press meet, the painted face glistening in camera lights.
Mr Kulkarni blamed the Shiv Sena for the attack on him and said the group had threatened to disrupt the launch of Kasuri’s book in “typical Shiv Sena style”. He added: “Even then the scheduled launch will be held as planned.”
Former Deputy Prime Minister of India, L.K. Advani condemned the attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni, his erstwhile aide.
“I strongly condemn whosoever has done this,” said Mr Advani, adding that “of late we have seen an increase in cases of intolerance, this is against democracy.”
Mr Advani had, on the 40th anniversary of the Emergency in June, said that conditions that could give rise to another Emergency today continued to prevail in India.
Mr Kulkarni, under the aegis of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) was organising the launch of Mr Kasuri’s book Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insiders Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy. The Shiv Sena had openly opposed the function.
Mr Kasuri told the media he recognised everyone’s right to protest but not in the manner in which his Indian host was attacked.
“As a political worker, I recognise the right to protest. I have faced police lathi charges. I know what political opposition is. But what happened to Kulkarni is beyond that right,” he said.
Mr Kasuri said he had “great faith” in the common man of India and Pakistan.
The threat to Mr Kasuri’s book launch came days after a warning from the Shiv Sena led to the cancellation of concerts in Mumbai and Pune by popular Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali.
The attack on Mr Kulkarni happened when he was leaving his home in south-central Mumbai, as a group of around a dozen alleged Shiv Sena activists accosted him.
They shouted slogans and asked him to cancel the event before smearing him with black paint.
Mr Kulkarni told NDTV that Mr Kasuri was his guest and he had taken a principled stand to go ahead with the book launch.
“It is our duty to protect and honour Mr Kasuri. I will host him even after this attack on me,” he said. Mr Kulkarni said he shared the Shiv Sena’s concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan but made it clear that ideas should not be opposed through violence.
Mr Kulkarni had tweeted that the conflict between India and Pakistan could be resolved only through dialogue. He said the book launch was a small endeavour to keep the process of dialogue alive.
Mr Kulkarni is a former member of the BJP, was a key member of former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s team and helped write his speeches. In recent years, he has been critical of right-wing groups allied to the BJP.
Published in Dawn, October 13th , 2015