Crossword shut down a book reading after Gul Panag and producer Ashok Pandit got into a shouting match. They were debating on Varon B K Sharma's The Assassination Of George Bush, when the subject moved onto terrorism.
Scream Fest: Gul Panag
Pandit, who is a displaced Kashmiri, attacked Panag's view that the root causes of terrorism, like poverty, needed to be looked at. Pandit said, "If that was the case, every poor person would pick up a gun and start killing people."
Panag said that she was no armchair activist. "I am well versed with facts and current affairs," she said.
"My dad, Lt General Panag was commander of northern command, so I know what terrorism is about. I agreed with Ashok that we should ruthlessly crush terrorism, but I added that we should also examine the causes. Why are the poor taking to the gun? It's not just Kashmir but also Assam, South India and other areas of India."
It was then, she said, that "Ashok butted in saying, what rubbish! Why are you justifying killing?"
Panag said she did not see the "vicious cycle of killing ending unless we don't investigate why it's happening. They don't have food, jobs."
"I said the Muslim population of our country is 12-13 per cent but the representation of Muslims in public services like Army, Parliament, Railways are below 3 per cent. To that Ashok said something like 'If they want they can have it differently.' That really upset me! How can an educated person talk like that?"
Pandit said in his defence that he could "not listen to the flowery language of peace."
"Mahesh Bhatt started the discussion by talking about why terrorists behave like that and we should treat them with love, affection and sympathy. Being a Kashmiri and a victim of terrorism for last 20 years, I said all terrorists should be killed as they don't understand peaceful language."
The book they were debating, or were supposed to be debating, was Varon BK Sharma's The Assassination Of George Bush. Sharma said, "It was a heated debate but if it was allowed to continue it could have turned uglier. That's why the Crossword guys broke it up."
Suchitra Pillai and Shefali Shah were also present.