Suspected Shiv Sena activists on Friday vandalised the offices of a Marathi news channel in Mumbai and Pune and assaulted staff members including journalists for carrying reports that allegedly showed Bal Thackeray in bad light.
Dozens of men armed with iron rods and clubs descended on the office of IBN-Lokmat in suburban Mumbai shouting slogans against the channel for allegedly carrying reports against their leader Bal Thackeray and warned of serious consequences if they persisted with it.
TV channels showed the vandals beating up the staff, overturning furniture and smashing glass panels with flowerpots and sticks.
According to Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandan, seven persons have been arrested and efforts were on to bring to book others responsible for the incident.
A Pune report said some suspected Sena workers pelted the office of IBN-Lokmat on Singhdad road with stones and also damaged an outdoor broadcast van.
The police posted at the office after news broke about the attack on the channel's Mumbai office, have detained eight persons.
Meanwhile, Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has condemned the attack and promised swift and appropriate action against the perpetrators, saying there was no place for violence in a democracy. "In democracy, everybody has the right to put across one's views, but there is no place for violence.
But then you cannot expect organisations like Shiv Sena and MNS, which use regional and linguistic issues for publicity, to act differently," Chavan said. Asked if the government would ensure the arrest of the ring leaders behind the incident, Chavan said, "nobody will be spared if found responsible for orchestrating it."
Sanjay Nirupam, a former Shiv Sena MP and now Congress Lok Sabha member, denounced the attack, terming it as an assault on the freedom of the media. Abu Asim Azmi, Samajwadi Party MLA, who was assaulted by MNS legislators inside the House for not taking oath in Marathi, slammed the incident, and said "things have taken such an ugly turn because the government did not take any action against the perpetrators of happenings like these in the past."
Maharashtra Government will act against those who instigated the attack on the office of Marathi TV channel 'IBN-Lokmat' in Mumbai on friday, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan said.
Asked if the government will act against the "brains and ring-leaders" behind the attack by Shiv Sena, Chavan said "we will certainly do so."
"Seven people have been arrested so far and more arrests will follow. I have asked Police Commissioner D Sivanandan to take stern action against those responsible," Chavan said.
"Only after investigations and interrogation of the arrested persons, we will know the individuals behind the attacks. Nobody is above law and action would be taken," he said.
"The attack shows the deep frustration of Shiv Sena", the Chief Minister said.
Meanwhile, Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the attack was "spontaneous."
"The channel was constantly targeting Sena and misquoted Sena chief Bal Thackeray," he alleged.
Describing the attack on the offices of a prominent Marathi news channel as a "cowardly act", Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil on Friday said the culprits would be traced and booked without delay.
"This attack is an act of cowardice," Patil told reporters on the sidelines of a function in Pune.
Assuring adequate protection to all media establishments, he said the government would make the organisation responsible for the act pay the compensation for the damages if its involvement is proved in the investigations.
Asked if the government would act against the suspected Shiv Sena leaders involved in the act, the minister said, "we shall act against those found guilty after completing the investigations."
Editor of IBN-Lokmat Nikhil Wagle said the attack on the Marathi news channel may have been instigated by Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut. "I suspect Raut is behind the attack," Wagle said.
"Bal Thackeray has become old. Uddhav Thackeray has lost control over Sena and elements like Raut are flourishing in that party," he said.
Raut, who is also editor of Sena mouthpiece `Saamana', said earlier in the day that the attack was "spontaneous".
"The (channel) office is located in the constituency from where Raut's brother contested as a Sena candidate," Wagle said.
"I have been facing Sena attacks since 1991 and it is difficult to believe that any attack takes place without orders from Sena leaders," he said. "Sena has insulted Marathi by attacking a Marathi channel," the veteran journalist said. PTI