One must understand that the Indian point of view on Kashmir differs from that of Pakistan. To improve bilateral ties, we need a dialogue. It is for this reason that I thought we should hold the book launch event in Mumbai. It talks about the relations between the two countries.
This morning, when I decided to sit with the oil paint on my face, I did it for a reason. I wanted the world to know what the Shiv Sena has done. And the only way to show that was by not wiping the paint off my face. I am not scared of them, although I have never experienced such a thing before. The Sainiks who stopped my car started abusing and threatening me while my daughter sat inside the car watching everything. They were in no mood to talk, they threw not just any normal oil paint at me, but one that had lead content in it.
Yesterday, I went to Uddhav Thackeray’s house with Satish Sahney, co-organiser of the function, to discuss the book launch. While we respect the Shiv Sena’s right to protest peacefully, they should also respect our lawful right to conduct a programme. But threatening to disrupt a function of this kind is not acceptable.
I met the Sena chief for three reasons. I wanted to convey that we were not going to cancel the programme under threat. Secondly, I share the Shiv Sena and millions of people’s concern over terrorism. There can be no compromise in our fight against terrorism. But it is not as if we are supporting terrorism by holding this book launch. Shiv Sena should understand that. I also told him that if he has a point of view which is different from ours, then he should send a representative to articulate their view at the function.
I spent considerable time showing him (Thackeray) this book and its contents. The book is an honest account of problems between Indian and Pakistan. Even Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri condemns terrorism.
If Delhi can organise his book launch, which was also attended by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Deputy PM L K Advani and other political leaders, then why can’t Mumbai have a similar function? Does this mean that L K Advani and Manmohan Singh are pro-Pakistan? Of course not. This is what we tried to convey to Uddhav Thackeray and Shiv Sena.
Freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy and therefore it must be safeguarded. There are always going to be different points of view. Differences have to be respected and argued in a constructive manner. In that same spirit, we wanted to hold this function…
The book has many facets that lead the way for discussions. The most important contribution is its attempt to show the persistent efforts of officials in Indian and Pakistani governments for peace. Between 2002 till 2015, officials have worked hard to find a mutually satisfying solution to the Kashmir issue… The book discusses how both the governments were close to a solution at one point in the past.
– As told to Tabassum Barnagarwala
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