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KULKARNI: This is an attack on Indian Democracy

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A visbly shaken Kulkarni said the Sena attack is not an individual but the democratic values of the country….Asian Lite News

Ink smeared face of activist and writer Sudheendra Kulkarni who was abused and attacked by by suspected Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai
Ink smeared face of activist and writer Sudheendra Kulkarni who was abused and attacked by by suspected Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai

Senior BJP leader LK Advani, Opposition Congress Party, Bollywood celebrities among several Indians criticised the ink attack on former journalist and writer Sudheendra Kulkarni by the Shiv Sena.

Advani said the incident shows growing intolerance towards viewpoints that are different to one’s own.

The attack, which the Shiv Sena termed a “mild reaction”, was to protest against Kulkarni’s invitation to former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri to launch the latter’s book in Mumbai. Barely hours ahead of the launch, Kulkarni, and chief of think tank Observer Research Foundation, appeared before the media alleging that he was abused and attacked with paint by suspected Shiv Sainiks.

Asian Lite cover on the attack on Mr Kulkarni
Asian Lite cover on the attack on Mr Kulkarni

“This morning I saw on TV my long-time colleague Sudheendra Kulkarni has been attacked, Advani said. “I do not want to name anybody, but such incidents show a growing intolerance towards views that are different from one’s own. I strongly condemn the attack,” the veteran BJP leader said, on the sidelines of a function to release the inaugural issue of the journal Chanakya.

A shaken but determined Kulkarni, chairman of think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF), told media persons that the Shiv Sena had repeatedly warned it would not permit the event and if the ORF failed to comply, the party would disrupt it in “Shiv Sena style”.

“The Shiv Sena has no authority to impose such a ban… We have taken a principled stand and shall not cancel the event,” asserted Kulkarni, who did not wash off the ink for several hours,

Kasuri said he was “saddened and unhappy by this attack on Kulkarni whom I have known for many years” and condemned it. “…the right to protest must be peaceful and these people must change their tactics of protest,” he said at a hurriedly convened press conference here following the incident.

“I have come with a message of peace… An overwhelming majority of people in both countries want peace between the two countries… But, there are some who don’t want India-Pakistan peace,” he said.

Ink smeared face of activist and writer Sudheendra Kulkarni who was abused and attacked by by suspected Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai
Ink smeared face of activist and writer Sudheendra Kulkarni who was abused and attacked by by suspected Shiv Sainiks in Mumbai

Incidentally, Shiv Sena, which has accepted responsibility for smearing Kulkarni with ink, is an alliance partner of the BJP in the Maharashtra government. The ‘protest’ was against Kulkarni’s role in the launch of Kasuri’s book ‘Neither a Hawk nor a Dove’.

Though he was responding to specific queries about the attack on Kulkarni, Advani’s comments about intolerance echo those made by President Pranab Mukherjee on two different occasions during the last week where he had emphasised plurality as one of the key attributes of the Indian civilisation.

The opposition Congress condemned the attack.

“The Indian National Congress unequivocally condemns the attack by Shiv Sena on Sudheendra Kulkarni. If Shiv Sena wants to give an answer to Pakistan, they should go to the border and fight them,” Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar told the media.

The Congress demanded a “strong” intervention by Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis into the incident. “It is clear that it is a fixed match between BJP and Shiv Sena. We want to say that the Maharashtra chief minister should strongly intervene in this incident,” the spokesperson said.

“When the President of India gave some lessons of tolerance to the prime minister, the PM was forced to say something… We have seen how the renowned ghazal exponent Ghulam Ali was stopped from performing in Mumbai,” the Congress leader said.

President Mukherjee’s comments were widely interpreted as a reaction to the raging controversy and communal statements in the country in the wake of the lynching of one man in Uttar Pradesh’s Dadri over rumours of storing and consuming beef.

Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Raut aid that the ink attack was a mild, non-violent reaction to Pakistan spilling the blood of Indian soldiers.

“In a democracy like ours, it is essential to value a difference of opinion and its existence. Nobody has a right to attack anybody or indulge in hooliganism just because someone carries a different opinion,” said Sanjay Nirupam, a former Shiv Sainik turned Congress leader. “The Constitution of India has provided every citizen the right and freedom of speech and expression though with certain limitations. He may be right in exercising his fundamental right; but, I would like to question the motive of Mr Sudheendra Kulkarni too.

“With the current atmosphere in Mumbai not conducive to hold such event, he could have taken a more guarded approach, especially when the controversy of ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali is still alive at its full force and has been politicised,” Nirupam added.

Members of the film fraternity including Mahesh Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor and Sona Mohapatra have strongly criticised the attack on Kulkarni.

Rishi Kapoor said that the act is “unpardonable” while Bhatt noted that it not only brings shame on to the society, but also “debunks our claims to be a democracy”.

Rishi Kapoor tweeted: “Excuse me! This is ridiculous and unpardonable. And to address a media conference in this manner? Politics!”

Filmmaker Bhatt shared: “The attack on Sudhendra Kulkarni ridicules our constitution, shames our police, and debunks our claims to be a democracy.”

Singer Sona Mohapatra, famous for tracks like “Ambarsariya” and “Bedardi raja”, took to Twitter to express her thoughts.

She shared: “Dear Shiv Sena, Throwing paint on Sudheerna Kulkarni doesn’t make you patriotic. If you remotely care, help fight our biggest enemy – poverty.”

Musician Shaan noted, “It’s all getting ridiculous now”, and actress and host Mini Mathur felt all these incidents are leaving a bad impression on children.

“Intolerance at its peak! Guys don’t wreck our country totally yet.. Let our kids at least get an idea of what it was,” Mini shared.

Dia Mirza appreciated Kulkarni for not bogging down by the attack, and giving them back strongly.

She said: “Kudos #SudheendraKulkarni for not allowing intimidation and threat to weaken your choice.”

Actor-comedian Vir Das shared: “You think there’s anyway to get some Mumbai buildings to write a book about Indo-Pak relations so that the Sena comes over and paints them?”.

And filmmaker Onir asked, “Where are we headed? #Shameful ‘Fascist, Desi Taliban’: Paint Attack on Sudheendra Kulkarni Slammed”.

“Masaan” fame director Neeraj Ghaywan shared an image of Kulkarni and said: “And he is wearing the colours of our flag”. The attire Kulkarni was wearing at the time of the paint attack had the three colours of the Indian flag.