In the name of their Boss, Sena goons attack IBN TV channels
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About 25 party activists barged into the common office of the two channels in suburban Vikhroli in the financial capital, armed with baseball bats, cricket stumps and iron rods. They broke glass facades, office equipment and assaulted some employees before fleeing the spot. In Pune, they attacked the outdoor broadcast van of the channels and damaged it, police said.
Witnesses in Mumbai said the attackers shouted that they would not accept any criticism or reports criticising the Shiv Sena. They also called out for IBN Lokmat's Editor-in-Chief Nikhil Wagle and manhandled him before the channel's employees clashed with the attackers and detained three of them in the melee. Police said they had arrested seven Shiv Sainiks and were looking for more. A sports editor and a graphic artist injured in the attack were admitted to hospital, IBN said.
The Sena owned up to the attack, with party MP and Editor of its mouthpiece Saamna, Sanjay Raut, saying that Wagle had used bad language while referring to Bal Thackeray over the last two days and this had incited Sena activists. "The attack on IBN is definitely by Shiv Sena workers and some of them are even office-bearers. The kind of statements and language used by Wagle against Balasaheb outraged Sainiks and this is the result," he told The Indian Express. "This is not an attack on journalism but a reaction to a perverted mindset. We are not afraid of the consequences and will face it."
Sena ally BJP, however, did not agree. State BJP leader Vinod Tawde said that the party did not support attacks on the media as they were an important pillar of democracy. "The Sena complaint against a newspaper or media house could be true but it can be resolved in a democratic manner. Such attacks will never be supported by BJP," he said.
Even the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), which has itself resorted to similar violence in the past, condemned the attack. Senior MNS leader and newly elected MLA Shishir Shinde said that he had visited the IBN office and seen the damage. "It is extremely unfortunate that women reporters were also attacked," he said.
Chief Minister Ashok Chavan promised tough action against the offenders. "Reporters and media are entitled to express their opinion and they have the right to do the same. An attack on their freedom and thought is condemnable. Such things malign the image of the state," said Chavan.
Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Himanshu Roy said that police were also booking the offenders under Section 307, accusing them of attempt to murder, a non-bailable charge. "Any such attack in a democratic society is unpardonable and since media is an arm of a democratic society, such actions will be dealt with seriously. We will do everything we can to ensure that the culprits are booked. We will ensure that this time we also go behind the scene and take action against everyone involved in this attack," Roy said.
The Shiv Sena has been badly bruised by the hammering in the Assembly elections which saw its strength fall to 44 seats from 63 in 2004, two less than the BJP. Political observers say this downturn — forced by the emergence of the MNS and its brand of identity politics — was forcing the Sena to return to violent politics after a brief lull and could even see it reviving the hardline Hindutva agenda that had become its hallmark in the 1990s.
Earlier this week, Bal Thackeray had written an open letter to Tendulkar in the party mouthpiece Saamna, criticising him for saying that Mumbai belonged to all Indians. But the remarks boomeranged on him as they invited national condemnation and even the MNS sought to remain silent on an issue that has been its pet campaign.
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