Mumbai, Oct 12 (IANS) Hours before the launch of former Pakistani foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri’s book, main organiser and former journalist Sudheendra Kulkarni was attacked and his face blackened by Shiv Sena activists here on Monday. The incident was widely condemned but the party said it would continue its protests against the visiting Pakistani leader.
The incident happened when Kulkarni was leaving his home in Sion in south-central Mumbai, when a group of around a dozen Sena activists accosted him.
They shouted slogans and asked him to cancel the event scheduled later Monday and then smeared him with black ink.
An ally in the state’s ruling coalition and at the centre, the Shiv Sena has strongly opposed the function to launch Kasuri’s book “Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy”.
The party has warned that it would not allow the event, while Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has assured full support and security to the function organised by the Observer Research Foundation think tank.
A determined Kularni said: “The Shiv Sena has no authority to impose such a ban… We have taken a principled stand and will not cancel the event.”
Last night, Kulkarni met Sena president Uddhav Thackeray but failed to get any assurance on holding the function peacefully.
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.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesperson Shaina NC said the incident would be probed and those responsible for it would be booked.
Top leaders of the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, BJP and others have also condemned the Sena action.
Shiv Sena MP and spokesperson Sanjay Raut however dismissed some messages on social media networks claiming that the agitation was withdrawn following intervention by Fadnavis.
“You have witnessed what is going on since today morning. Kasuri has arrived in Mumbai for the function arranged by Pakistai ‘agent’ (Kulkarni) – You have also seen the Shiv Sena’s reaction and how their faces have been blackened,” Raut told media persons.
On the condemnation of the incident, he said: “We are not concerned by who is condemning the action. Our agitation will continue. It is not a political agitation, but a patriotic one against the forces attempting to break and divide the country.”
Raut warned even at the function scheduled later this evening, the Sena would not tolerate any talks which was “anti-India” or “anti-Indians”.
“During his tenure as foreign minister, Kasuri worked actively against India. He invited anti-Indian separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and instigated them to unite against India. This is the same Kasuri whom they are welcoming with a red carpet,” he said.
Raut said Kasuri had accompanied senior BJP leader L. K. Advani to the tomb of Pakistan’s founder Mohammed Ali Jinnah a few years ago.
He said the Sena has sent a report listing all of Kasuri’s anti-India activities during his tenure as Pakistan foreign minister, and urged Fadnavis’ intervention to cancel Monday’s function.
Meanwhile, a tight security blanket envelops the venue, Nehru Centre in Worli, since Sunday evening to ward off any untoward incidents.
Last week, the Shiv Sena threatened the staging of two concerts in Mumbai and Pune by renowned Pakistani ghazal maestro Ghulam Ali and they were subsequently cancelled.