In a shocking and a shameful incident, on October 12, Shiv Sainik activists smeared black paint on Sudheendra Kulkarni's face to protest against the book launch of "Neither a Hawk, nor a Dove" by Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, the former foreign minister of Pakistan. The reason Kulkarni was attacked was because he was the organiser of the event.
Kasuri was a close confidante of former Pakistan President General Musharraf, and one of the main architects of initiating the peace process with India. It would have been a great opportunity for people of Mumbai to have heard his side of the story, and also it would have given an opportunity to interact with him, to understand, as to why the Indo-Pak relations, despite several attempts made by both the countries to better the relations, continues to be plagued by mistrust and animosity.
Although, I don't want to take up cudgels with the 'desh premi' Shiv Sainiks, as they are entitled to hold on to their views, but taking the law into their own hands is highly condemnable, as it is against the right of freedom of speech, which is one of our core values. In a bizarre reaction to the incident, the Shiv Sena spokesman Sanjay Raut, instead of showing any remorse, said that the "The ink attack on Kulkarni is a mild reaction from Sena, this is not ink but the blood of our soldiers."
Further, muzzling of views, especially those of the writers, will prove to be counterproductive. As expected, Kulkarni, who will also be moderating the discussions during the book launch, has made a statement that he will not be cowed down by such pressure tactics, and will go ahead with the book launch.
Sadly, this incident came in the wake of the cancellation of legendary Ghazal Singer Ghulam Ali's programme in Mumbai and Pune due to threats from the same organisation. In the past, the Shiv Sainiks had got away by attacking journalists, TV studios, and all others who held contrarian views and did not subscribe to their ideology. As this organisation enjoys goodwill and support from a large constituency in the Maratha belt, the successive governments in Maharashtra, be it UPA led government, and now the NDA government, have been hesitant to rein in this group, because of "vote bank' politics. The ineffectual governments have only managed to embolden these groups in all their subversive activities.
In an Op Ed in New York Times, the writer says, "The attacks in India should not be seen as a problem limited to secular writers or liberal thinkers. They should be recognized as an attack on the heart of what constitutes a democracy -- and that concerns everyone who values the idea of India as it was conceived and as it is believed, rather than an India imagined through the eyes of religious zealots.."
We shudder to see India from the eyes of zealots like Azam Khan, Owaisi, Sakshi Maharaj, Sangeet Som, Sadhvi Pragya, Shiv Sainiks and their ilk. Fortunately their numbers are inconsequential compared to the great country country that is India. India has a millennia old history of tolerance and let not the rich social tapestry be destroyed by few radical elements.
It is high time that the middle class in India raise their voice against the growing intolerance in our society. If they remain mute spectators, the communal and radical elements, will only feel emboldened to launch more such attacks against all those people who don't subscribe to their ideology.
If we want to preserve the " unity and diversity" let us learn from what the The President of India, said in his recent speech: " diversity, tolerance and plurality of Indian civilization must be kept in mind and cannot be allowed to be wasted. "These core civilization values keep us together over the centuries. Many ancient civilizations have fallen. But that is right that aggression after the aggression, long foreign rule, the Indian civilization has survived because of its core civilizational values and we must keep that in mind. And if we keep those core values in mind, nothing can prevent our democracy to move".
The government, on its part, should no longer remain a mute spectator. The government should rein in all such elements, before they succeed in destroying the rich social tapestry of this great nation. It is preservation of this country that is important, and not clinging on to power.
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