Writer Sudheendra Kulkarni, his face covered in black ink after an attack by alleged Shiv Sena members, announced in Mumbai on Monday that he would go ahead with the launch of a book written by Pakistan’s former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
Kulkarni, one of the organisers for former Pakistan foreign minister Kasuri’s book “Neither a Hawk nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” launch in Mumbai, was attacked outside his home allegedly by Shiv Sena members who threw black ink on his face. Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has promised complete security for the event.
“I welcome Kasuri to this great city. I thank him for coming even though we already had indications about some forces threatening him,” Kulkarni told a news conference, hours after his face was smeared with ink as Kasuri sat by his side.
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.”
Kasuri told the media he recognises everyone’s right to protest but not in the manner in which Kulkarni 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.
Kasuri said he has “great faith” in the common man of India and Pakistan.
The threat to Kasuri’s book launch came days after a warning from the Shiv Sena led to the cancellation of concerts in Mumbai and Pune by acclaimed Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali.
The attack on Kulkarni happened when he was leaving his home in Sion, southcentral Mumbai, when a group of around a dozen alleged Shiv Sena activists accosted him.
They shouted slogans and asked him to cancel the event and then allegedly smeared him with black ink.
Kulkarni told NDTV that Kasuri is his guest and he had taken a principled stand to go ahead with the book launch.
“It is our duty to protect and honour Kasuri. I will host him even after this attack on me,” Kulkarni said. He said that he shared the Shiv Sena’s concerns about terrorism emanating from Pakistan but made it clear that ideas should not be opposed through violence.
Kulkarni had tweeted that the conflict between India and Pakistan can be resolved only through dialogue. He said the book launch was a small endeavour to keep the process of dialogue alive.
Kulkarni said the Shiv Sena could have voiced its opposition in a debate instead of threatening and attacking him.
Kulkarni met Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday night in a bid to get his backing for the book launch. However, the Sena said that it will not go back on its protest.
Sena spokesperson Harshal Pradhan said the party would carry out protests outside the venue of the event on Monday.
“However, we will have to ascertain the identity of the people who attacked. If there are Sainiks, we are proud of them,” he said.
Kasuri was Pakistan’s foreign minister under General Pervez Musharraf and has elaborated on his stint in his book. The book was first released in Lahore last month and in Delhi last week. The Mumbai launch is being organised by the Observer Research Foundation.
Kulkarni, 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.