October 14, 2015

India: Mumbai's Shiv Sainiks have a shameful history of intimidation . . . (Editorials in The Telegraph and Deccan Herald)

The Telegraph - 14 October 2015

Editorial: Black out

The Shiv Sena in Mumbai has shown India and the world that ink and paint could be used in many ways in a modern democracy. It has not taken long for Sudheendra Kulkarni's outrageously blackened face - after Shiv Sainiks attacked him on his way to the launch of a book by Pakistan's former foreign minister - to become an icon of national disgrace. Mr Kulkarni participated in the event, together with his guest from Pakistan, without washing his face, and, apart from what it said about the Shiv Sena, his face provided a darkly ironic comment on what Bharat had achieved after one year of the prime minister trying to make it swachh. The Sena's characteristic hooliganism has been met, of course, by the prime minister's characteristic silence. This has been described - unfortunately by a Congress spokesman - as a kind of "match fixing". But not only the prime minister (who is, after all, too busy campaigning in Bihar or proclaiming India's glory to the world to be bothered about such banalities), but the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra and at the Centre has also been more or less silent about its oldest ally's latest fit of bigotry. Only one BJP veteran, L.K. Advani, has spoken up. This silence has been filled with the Shiv Sena chief's description of the attack on Mr Kulkarni as a perfectly valid form of protest against an anti-national event. The head of the Yuva Sena called it "non-violent, historic and democratic", thereby overturning the civilized world's understanding of non-violence, history and democracy.

Mumbai is, of course, quite used to such thuggery from the Shiv Sena. Artists, writers, performers, sportspersons and ordinary citizens, visiting the city or living in it, have been frequently bullied into giving in to the Shiv Sena's aggressive likes and dislikes, no matter who is in power in the state. A singer from Pakistan was stopped recently from performing in the city; cricket pitches have been dug up in the past to prevent teams from Pakistan playing on them; exhibitions have been shut down and senior artists forced to leave the country; men and women roughed up regularly for observing something as anti-national as Valentine's Day; and workers, students and examination candidates from other states made to flee for their lives for outraging the Sena's cultural chauvinism. No wonder, then, that Mumbai's modern sainiks would use ink and paint not to express, but to efface, the idea of the modern.

o o o

Deccan Herald, 14 October 2015


Ink-smeared face, a blot on tolerance
Oct 14, 2015, DHNS

The Shiv Sena acted true to its character and colours when it blackened the face of author
and columnist Sudheendra Kulkarni who had organised the launch of former Pakistan foreign minister Mahmud Kasuri’s book in Mumbai on Monday. It was only last week that a concert of Pakistani singer Ghulam Ali was cancelled in the same city after threats from the Sena. It is not only the Sena’s actons but also the failure of the BJP-led state government that should be condemned and denounced. The Sena is a partner in the Devendra Fadnavis government. It had, in public, announced that it would not allow both functions to take place. It is only because Kulkarni decided to go ahead with the book launch, even after being smeared with ink, that the function took place. Fadnavis offered protection for the event only if no “anti-India propaganda” was carried out there. But who is to decide what is anti-India?

The Shiv Sena has a shameful history of intimidation, threats and violent acts against linguistic, religious and other minorities. It has also built up an anti-Pakistan plank which it has used during the visits of Pakistani cricket teams or leaders, artists and others. There is already an atmosphere of intolerance and pressure on minorities in the country and it is getting thicker by the day with attacks on individuals and institutions, offensive and aggressive statements and failure on the part of authorities to curb such words and actions. The country’s cherished principles of freedom and democracy are continuously being challenged. The idea of secularism, the space for dissent, the plurality of people and lifestyles and the need for their co-existence, are all being contested by a majoritarian view which seeks to impose itself by force on others. It is a violation of the spirit of the country as it has been lived through ages and of the constitutional core of the state we have created and given to ourselves.

There is no pretence that the attacks, like that on Kulkarni, were emotional responses made on the spur of the moment. The Shiv Sena has owned up to the attack and has said it was planned, and the party is proud of what it did. The explanations about the party’s political problems with the BJP as the reason for the attack cannot hold water. Whatever the excuse, there is no reason to prevent the publication of a book, much less to attack the author or others associated with it. The ink-splattered face of Kulkarni is a shameful sign of our intolerant times and will haunt us.