13 members of right-wing group held; party declines security

Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan’s suggestion for a referendum on deployment of the Army in Jammu and Kashmir to deal with internal security took an ugly turn on Wednesday.

The leader of a right-wing group led a mob attack on the party’s head office at Kaushambi in Ghaziabad and vandalised it. Glass panes and flower pots were broken and a woman party worker narrowly escaped unhurt after a stone was hurled at the office. The party called in the police, but refused police protection for its members.

The Ghaziabad police registered complaints under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. They later arrested Bhupender Tomar alias Pinky Chaudhary of the Hindu Raksha Dal, who allegedly led the attack. Twelve others were also held on the charge of vandalism.

He is reported to have said that the group was against Mr. Bhushan’s remarks.

Mr. Bhushan blamed the BJP and an RSS-affiliated organisation for the attack. He said they were “afraid of AAP and frustrated with its rise.”

The incident, he said, showed that the parties were ready to use any means, “even going to the extent of vandalism and physically assaulting AAP leaders and supporters.”

Denouncing the attack, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said the party had made clear its stand on the issue. He said Mr. Bhushan’s opinion was misinterpreted.

“Even assuming Mr. Bhushan had said something objectionable, what was the purpose of the attack? Killing me or him and vandalising our office will not resolve the Kashmir problem. If it does, then [the attackers] can give me a time and date and I will come,” he told journalists.

On Tuesday, Mr. Kejriwal had dubbed Mr. Bhushan’s comments “personal” and asserted that Jammu and Kashmir was an integral part of India.

The BJP condemned the attack, but slammed Mr. Bhushan for his comments. “What he has said on Kashmir we condemn that also,” said party spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman.

Speaking to journalists, AAP leader Yogendra Yadav said it must be accepted that while people from diverse backgrounds can hold different views, there should be agreement on a programme of action that benefits the people.

Mr. Bhushan had been attacked by the same group in his Supreme Court Chamber in 2011 for his alleged comments on a plebiscite in Kashmir, which he later clarified.

Reacting to the incident, Union Parliamentary Minister Kamal Nath said, “I condemn politics of violence. There is no place for such attacks in the country.”

In the wake of the attack, a plea was made in the Delhi High Court seeking directions to Mr. Kejriwal not to refuse security offered to him.