Mumbai has rejected Sena’s views on Pakistan: Kulkarni

Sudheendra Kulkarni, chairperson of the Observer Research Foundation, on Wednesday said the people of Mumbai had firmly rejected the Shiv Sena’s approach on both the right to freedom of expression as well as the need for an Indo-Pakistan dialogue.

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Mr. Kulkarni, who faced a black paint attack by the Shiv Sena on Monday for hosting former Pakistan foreign minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri in Mumbai, said “Mumbaikars have shown a strong sense of solidarity for the cause for which he was invited here. They have firmly rejected the Shiv Sena on both the right to have freedom of expression and the need to promote Indo-Pak. dialogue and normalisation of our relations.”

On the Sena’s statement that Kasuri’s book launch in a post-26/11 Mumbai had brought Maharashtra into disrepute, Mr. Kulkarni said the argument was “ridiculous.”

“The Sena’s argument that the government should not have given permission for Kasuri’s book launch is ridiculous,” he said. “If the Indian government does not have an objection to this programme in Delhi, how can a State government ban the programme in Mumbai. It is a ridiculous demand that just goes to show that here is an organisation that thinks that it can demand anything.”

Mr. Kulkarni said his attempts to persuade soft-spoken Uddhav Thackeray to allow the book launch failed to convince the Shiv Sena. “I told him that I share your concerns, your anger with Pakistan over terrorism because terrorists operating from a neighbouring country and killing people here is not acceptable. And Mumbai has been the worst victim of this terrorism. There is no compromise with it. But we cannot have a situation where no Indian goes to Pakistan and no Pakistani comes to India,” Mr. Kulkarni said about his meeting with Mr. Thackeray at Matoshri, hours before the paint attack.

He said he had even offered the book launch platform to the Shiv Sena to express their dissent and present their point of view.

“India and Pakistan have not cut off diplomatic relations. I told him that you are part of the government and our PM has been meeting Nawaz Sharif, and their meeting produced a joint statement in Russia which was a productive and constructive statement,” he said.

After two days of silence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi also joined Mr. Kulkarni’s mentor L.K. Advani in condemning Shiv Sena’s actions as well as the Dadri lynching. “It is good that the PM has, belatedly at least, made this comment on Dadri incident. I personally consider what happened in Dadri as far more important than what happened to me...The atmosphere that creates such incidents, that atmosphere needs to be changed. It is the responsibility of the PM as the leader of the nation.”

Stating that there was an obvious dissonance between PM’s progressive agenda and the right wing fringe elements, Mr Kulkarni said “The PM can become a unifying force for a common agenda which pushes the welfare of all the people, then it is possible to create a greater positive energy to turn the agenda into performance. Unfortunately electoral considerations come in the way of leaders and parties even though they want that to happen.”

He said Indo-Pak dialogue had reached a point where people from both countries needed a “breakthrough”. “Breakthroughs require boldness in thinking and boldness in action. And Narendra Modi, with the massive mandate he has, should use the mandate to show boldness in his Pakistan policy.”

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 10:21:13 AM |

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