Pune (Maharashtra): A group of people, including youth, went for a symbolic morning walk here on Monday to protest the death threats to eminent litterateur Shripal Sabnis for his recent remarks on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. "It was a token half-km long march and we want to convey the message to the Sanatan Sanstha that we are not scared of their threats," convener of NGO Lokayat and Socialist Party of India national executive committee member Neeraj Jain told IANS.
The morning walk - from Mahatma Gandhi statue near the railway station to Ambedkar statue near the Collectorate - was intended to serve as a reply to Sanatan Sanstha lawyer Sanjiv Punalekar's advice to Sabnis, asking to "go for morning walks". Many construed it as a 'threat' since in the past, two prominent rationalists, Narendra Dabholkar and Govind Pansare had been shot dead while on a morning walk. However, under fire from several quarters, Punalekar denied the purported threat and said it was purely to improve "the writer's (Sabnis) mental and physical health". Followng Punalekar's comments, Pune Police has provided two armed police guards to Sabnis and family. After the walk, in which around 100 people, including intellectuals, youth and social activisits carrying banner and placards participated, Sabnis urged the need for 'dialogue' to resolve all kinds of differences. Sabnis, an elected president of the four-day 89th All India Marathi Literary Conference starting here from January 15, reiterated that he was "ready for discussions on anything that anybody finds objectionable". "Let them come and talk it over. I am not afraid of such threats. I am ready to take bullets," said Sabnis, who lives with his wife and two children in Maharashtra's academic and cultural capital. "It's time the state government takes all this seriously, or I will go the Dabholkar and Pansare way. The government must also initiate suitable action against Punalekar in this matter," Sabnis demanded. The author of 29 books, Sabnis has been facing intimidation since the past few days for his utterances against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with some political activists threatening to "break his limbs" and "kill him".