Shiv Sainiks vandalise TV channel offices in Mumbai, Pune (Lead)

Mumbai, Nov 20 ( Suspected Shiv Sena activists Friday ransacked the offices of the IBN-Lokmat television channel in north-east Mumbai and in Pune and assaulted journalists.

Armed with sticks and bats, a nearly 20-member mob attacked the IBN-Lokmat office in Vikhroli here, damaging the furniture and fittings, glass partitions, OB vans and electronic equipment.

According to a channel staffer, the activists barged into the channel office at around 4 p.m., shouting slogans in favour of Shiv Sena and its chief Bal Thackeray.

“They also manhandled a few staffers, including women, and editor Nikhil Wagle and others,” said Vijay Darda, chairman of the Lokmat group of newspapers that owns the channel.

Terming it as “an attack on the freedom of speech and media”, Darda said that he did not expect this from Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray.

“I have always considered him as a refined, cultured and family person and what has happened has pained us,” Darda told Inditop.

He said that the channel had been running several reports on the debacle of the Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alliance in last month’s assembly elections.

“They have vented their frustration of the defeat on the journalists and the TV channel, which is highly condemnable,” said Darda, a Congress MP in Rajya Sabha.

D.K. Raikar, group editor of Lokmat Group of Newspapers, said that the immediate provocation behind the attacks was not clear.

“However, we have learnt that at least seven Shiv Sainiks have been arrested by the police, and we are awaiting further details,” Raikar told Inditop.

A similar attack was carried out simultaneously at the Pune office of the channel and staffers were attacked. Pune police have arrested at least eight people in this connection.

Chief Minister Ashok Chavan and state Home Minister R.R. Patil condemned the attacks and assured that the culprits would be booked.

In Lucknow, the Samajwadi Party also condemned the attack, terming the attackers as anti-social elements.

“Be it the Shiv Sena or the Maharashtra Navnirmaan Sena (MNS), all are anti-social elements. They are spreading a feeling of regional difference amongst the states of the country. We appeal to the Election Commission to cancel the registration of such parties who do not follow the Indian constitution,” Rajendra Chaudhary, spokesperson of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh, told Inditop.