Sudheendra Kulkarni is chairman of the Observer Research Foundation Mumbai. Last month he hit the headlines when some members of the far-right Hindu party Shiv Sena inked his face at the launch of Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book Neither a Hawk nor a Dove in Mumbai. A former member of the Communist Party, Mr Kulkarni joined the BJP in 1996. Recently he was in Karachi to take part in the launch of the book organised by Oxford University Press. Peerzada Salman caught up with him for a brief interview. Excerpts follow:
Q: In your speech at Khurshid Kasuri’s book launch, you talked about the need for de-demonising Jinnah. Would you expand on it?
A: Mohammad Ali Jinnah was an ambassador for Hindu-Muslim unity before he joined the Pakistan Movement and even after that his August 11 speech too clearly suggests so. He wanted Pak-India relations along the US-Canada lines. This meant that he saw India and Pakistan as two separate countries, but friendly neighbours. So what I intend to say is that the truth of Jinnah has to be understood in India.
Q: In your address you also touched upon Mahatma Gandhi and Nehru’s roles in the freedom movement.
A: Gandhi, like Jinnah, was an advocate for Hindu-Muslim unity. He was killed by a Hindu. Gandhi had always said ‘give Pakistan its due’.
As far as Nehru is concerned, he was also a man of peace, all for Hindu-Muslim harmony. It was in the post-1947 situation that things went out of control. And it would be better if we don’t dwell on it.
Q: How bright is India shining?
A: India is shining brightly. It will shine brighter if India and Pakistan shine together.
Q: Of late, India has been gripped by a strong wave of extremism. What do you think are the reasons for it?
A: It’s a passing phase. It’s just a ripple. It won’t last for a long time. I don’t see anything in it that could make it go on for long.
Q: There’s a feeling in some circles that the wave of extremism in India is to stay that way, if not get worse.
A: I don’t think so. India is a strong democracy. It has a strong constitution. It is a secular country. If the executive tries to change its direction, it’s going to have political implications. So I don’t see that happening.
Q: How do you see the future of Muslims in India?
A: The future of Muslims in India is bright, as is the future of other religious minorities in the country. The condition of all minorities should improve, and I say that with reference to Pakistan as well.
Q: You were once a staunch proponent of Marxism. Now you have been quoted to have said that Marxism is not suited to India. Why do you believe so?
A: I believe so because India is a country of many religious faiths. It is difficult to apply Marxism there.
Q: When a member of the Shiv Sena doused you in black oil paint at Mr Kasuri’s book launch in Mumbai, what was your immediate response? Did it anger you?
A: No, it didn’t anger me. You see, it needs to be understood that there are people in India who have certain concerns about Pakistan, just as there are people in Pakistan who have concerns about India.
Published in Dawn, November 4th, 2015