Shiv Sena’s need to regain its increasingly threatened political space in Maharashtra appeared to rear its head again on Monday when some cadres smeared black paint on Sudheendra Kulkarni for hosting former Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri.
Though the Sena shocked Mumbai’s liberal cosmopolitanism by defacing Mr. Kulkarni’s face with oil paint, the Devendra Fadnavis regime showed once again that when the government has adequate will, it is possible to rein in trouble-makers.
Despite fresh threats by the Sena to intensify its protests, Mr. Kasuri’s memoir “Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove: An Insider’s Account of Pakistan’s Foreign Policy” was launched without any further incident. The police escorted Mr. Kasuri to the venue, and threw a three-tier security cover to prevent any further embarrassment to Chief Minister Fadnavis.
Mr. Fadnavis, also the home minister, disapproved of the attack. “We may not agree with somebody’s views, but when a foreign dignitary or a diplomat arrives on a valid visa and holds a programme, it’s the duty of a state to provide protection.”
Former Indian diplomats said incidents such as these tarnished the country’s image, besides hurting the “idea of India.”
Earlier, former BJP leader Kulkarni, the chairperson of the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), an international policy think tank, was rendered virtually unrecognisable after some Sena activists stopped his car near his central Mumbai residence around 9.30 a.m., and smeared his face with paint.
Undeterred, Mr. Kulkarni came to ORF’s south Mumbai office, and announced that he would not be cowed down by the attack and would continue with the book launch. The attack came after Mr. Kulkarni met Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray late on Sunday night to persuade the Sena to withdraw its agitation.
Six persons, including Sena shakha pramukh Gajanan Patil, were arrested for their alleged role in the attack.
I wanted to pay tribute to Mumbai: Kasuri
Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri said here on Monday that he was saddened by the blackening of Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairman of the Observer Research Foundation. “I have come to Mumbai because this is an inclusive city where my father completed his law degree, and I want to pay my tribute to the city. I recognise the right of Shiv Sena to protest as long as it is done in a peaceful manner,” he said.
Dileep Padgaonkar, senior journalist and former Kashmir interlocutor, condemned the incident as a sign of growing intolerance under the NDA regime.
Political commentator Kumar Ketkar saw the attack as a sign of frustration of the Shiv Sena“It is a well-perfected Shiv Sena-style protest to create ruckus, get into headlines, tell its followers that it exists with all its militancy, and then quietly place the tail between the legs,” Mr. Ketkar said.
Journalist-commentator Nikhil Wagle, who has been a target of several Sena-style attacks, congratulated Mr. Kulkarni for not succumbing to Sena ‘hooliganism.’
“We saw that in 2010 when Sena tried to disrupt screenings of Shah Rukh Khan’s film My Name Is Khan, but could not do anything because the Congress-NCP government stood firm, and provided adequate security to cinemas,” Mr. Wagle said.
Shiv Sena’s protests over the years: