The Shiv Sena, known for their ultra-nationalistic brand of patriotism, on Monday mobbed author and former journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni hours before he was to launch a book of a former Pakistan foreign minister and smeared black ink on his face to protest any cultural association of India with Pakistan.
"We respect your right to protest peacefully, but you also respect our right to hold the event," he later told Times Now TV channel. Kulkarni is being widely praised on social media for handling the crisis with dignity and candour. "I believe in democracy," the author and columnist told the channel.
Kulkarni, who is also the chairman of the foreign policy think-tank Observer and Research Foundation (ORF), calmly went ahead with the press conference with Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, and announced that the former Pak foreign minister's book will be launched as planned in Mumbai today despite Sena threats.
"Everyone has the right to protest, but within law," Kasuri said at the press conference.
I believe in democracy, and I believe in what all India stands for: Sudheendra Kulkarni #SenaHatePolitics— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) October 12, 2015
The incident happened when Kulkarni was leaving his home in Sion, southcentral Mumbai, when a group of around a dozen alleged Sena activists accosted him. They shouted slogans and asked him to step out. "Shiv Sena activists threw ink at me and smeared my face. They abused me. We won't be cowed down by such events and the book launch will happen as planned," he said.
Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena has justified the attack as a "very mild form of democratic protest."
"We don't know if ink or tar was smeared. Nobody can foretell how public anger will explode," Raut said. He also implied that the Sena will not call off their protest against the book launch in the evening.
Kasuri is scheduled to attend the launch of his book 'Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider's Account of Pakistan's Foreign Policy' in Mumbai. Maharashtra's Home department, headed by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, had assured the organiser of full security.
Kulkarni had met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray at the latter's residence 'Matoshree' late last night, but left without getting any assurance from him. The Shiv Sena had earlier threatened to disrupt Ghulam Ali's concerts, leading to cancellation of the Pakistani ghazal singer's events in Mumbai and Pune recently. The Sena routinely protests any association with Pakistan citing instances of border violence and terrorist attacks on Indian soil.
The Shiv Sena says it is an insult to the Indian soldiers who had died in the recent ceasefire violations by Pakistan.
"I informed him that Kasuri was Pakistan foreign minister during 2002-07 and was not a minister when the 2008 Mumbai terror attack happened," Kulkarni said.
"It was brought to the Sena leader's attention that Kasuri in his book has criticised non-state actors perpetrating terror," said Kulkarni, who has served as speechwriter for BJP veterans Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L K Advani.
The Sena, which shares power with the BJP in Maharashtra, has written to the director of Worli's Nehru Centre, the launch venue, to cancel the event because of the Pakistan connection.
Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi: "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.. they are creating mutual antagonism. There is a clear connection with the party in power, with a remote control in Nagpur. The only person who can stop this is the Prime Minister and, unfortunately, he keeps silence on these issues."
CPI leader D Raja: "Shiv 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."
Congress leader Digvijaya Singh: "Such intolerance in India can't be tolerated. First Ghulam Ali concert and now Kasuri's book launch, we don't want a Desi Taliban in India."
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Sudesh Verma: "We condemn this act. We should not be so intolerant. But we also need to see if it was official Shiv Sena's line or whether the Shiv Sena distances itself from this act of vandalism."
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Shaina NC: The incident would be probed and those responsible for it would be booked.
LK Advani: There must be place for a different point of view in democracy.
The Mumbai Police lodged a complaint against unknown persons in connection with the ink attack.
"This is not ink, but the blood of our martyrs on his face. He should feel ashamed for siding with Pakistan's 'chamchaas'. This much reaction just because of a little ink on his face? You cannot stop people as they have pent up hatred against Pakistan in their minds," Raut said.
"Those who support Pakistan's 'chamchaas' are going against the nation in every way and if someone dubs patriotism as violence, then what can you say about the Indian freedome struggle against the British? The Shiv Sena will continue to protest against Pakistan in all in every way," Raut added.
There was widespread condemnation of the ink attack on social media.
All said Sudheendra Kulkarni is looking unusually dignified. pic.twitter.com/4NAjsyEm6A— TheGhoseSpot (@SandipGhose) October 12, 2015
I condemn attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni.Everybody has right to express his opinion in a democratic manner but not goondagardi.— Sushil Kumar Modi (@SushilModi) October 12, 2015
Paint on Sudheendra Kulkarni's face will go, but by carrying on with presscon, he has put buckets of permanent paint on faces of the goons— Abhijit Majumder (@abhijitmajumder) October 12, 2015
Sudheendra Kulkarni deciding not to wipe off the ink from his face, welcomes Kasuri to the "great city of Mumbai" :-/ pic.twitter.com/hLWVA4wEzj— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) October 12, 2015
Strongly condemn most dastardly attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni by Shiv Sainiks Udhav Thakre must control his goons Full support to Sudheendra— digvijaya singh (@digvijaya_28) October 12, 2015
Shocking &shameful. Sudheendra Kulkarni attacked for a book launch? Face smudged with ink.Is this Indian Sanskriti? pic.twitter.com/izAsl9D89X— Anjali Damania (@anjali_damania) October 12, 2015
The attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni shows those who cannot put pen to paper use ink to blacken faces— Madhavan Narayanan (@madversity) October 12, 2015
Sudheendra Kulkarni isn't washing his face. Clever. He understands television.— Shiv Aroor (@ShivAroor) October 12, 2015
Will Fadnavis show courage to arrest 20 Goons who smeared Sudheendra Kulkarni face? NO One arrested till now. Why ? #UddhavJungleRaj— Vinod Mehta (@DrunkVinodMehta) October 12, 2015