New Delhi: India’s freedom of expression has once again come under attack. This time by none other than the goons sent by the Shiv Sena who carried out coordinated attacks on IBN's offices in Mumbai and Pune on Friday. The attacks -- in the Sena's own words -- were in retaliation for the network's critical coverage of Bal Thackeray's Saamna article on Sachin Tendulkar. The Sena not only claimed the attacks, but issued a threat too -- anyone who criticises their chief will meet the same fate.
Following is the summary of how the situation unfolded.
- Friday, November 20; 3:45pm: A mob of thirty five to forty men armed with hockey sticks and lathis barge into the IBN Lokmat and IBN 7 offices in Vikhroli. They smash television sets, computers, phones and other equipment before attacking the staff including IBN Lokmat's editor Nikhil Wagle.The newsroom is taken by surprise.
- The ruckus began when three vehicles full of men posing as guests for a live show entered IBN Network's Vikhroli office premises.
- The men took the stairs to the office on the 7th floor and started breaking glass partitions as soon as they stepped into the lobby.
- The office receptionist managed a narrow escape.
- The group then barged into the news room, assaulted the staff, including IBN Lokmat editor Nikhil Wagle and broke furniture and equipment.
- Help from the police despite repeated calls took time to come.
- The Sena thandav continued. The IBN office in Pune was also attacked and an OB van damaged.
- An hour and a half later Shiv Sena claimed responsibility. They cited the reason for the ruckus as IBN Lokmat questioning Bal Thackeray's comment on Sachin.
Lokmat Editor Nikhil Wagle said, "They took 45 minutes, when they should have been here in 10 minutes flat. I made desperate pleas with them myself. When they turned up they had no explanation for the delay."
Saamna Editor Sanjay Raut said, "It was a spontaneous attack. We will not tolerate any criticism of Bal Thackeray."
(With inputs from George Koshy and Raksha Shetty)