Shiv Sena workers ransacked the lobby of The Times of India building here on Saturday afternoon in protest against an article on Sena Member of Parliament Anandrao Adsul. The page one article in Maharashtra Times speculated that Mr. Adsul was likely to join the Nationalist Congress Party.
Police arrested 17 Sena activists involved in the attack. “We have booked them for criminal trespass, damage to public property, rioting, etc. under sections 427, 323, 452, 141 to 149 of IPC [Indian Penal Code], section 135 of the Bombay Police Act,” Deepak Dhole, senior inspector of the Azad Maidan police station told The Hindu.
Eyewitnesses said that more than 50 Sena activists protested before The Times of India building here on Saturday afternoon. They burnt copies of Maharashtra Times and shouted slogans. “They waved black flags. Then some of them suddenly entered the building and went on the rampage. They broke some window panes, damaged the lobby. One of our colleagues was hit on the head by a lathi,” R.L. Kadara, the security guard at the building, said.
“A newspaper which calls itself responsible carried wrong news on page one along with my photograph,” Mr. Adsul, the Sena MP from Amravati, said. “On the eve of the polls, such news creates confusion in the party's ranks and leads to misunderstanding. The party workers had gone to give the letter to the Editor, but they were manhandled. The chaos ensued later,” he said.
“A politician has to work very hard to rise to a party position,” said Shiv Sena legislator Sanjay Raut said. “One news item can ruin his political career. We have never supported violent attacks but the newspaper should not have printed his name.”
Maharashtra Times Editor Ashok Panvalkar said the paper always printed balanced views and never targeted any particular party leader. “All the Marathi newspapers had carried speculative news about possible defections. We have never personally targeted Adsul or anyone. Had he sent his clarification, we would have carried that as well.”
Mr. Panvalkar said the party workers handed over the letter to one of the employees of Maharashtra Times and then engaged in rioting. “We condemn this attack. We are going to write our editorial on page one on Sunday. We will also print the clarification issued by Mr. Adsul. Violence cannot be a solution.”
The NCP too condemned the attack. NCP legislator Jitendra Avhad visited The Times of India office. The party later issued a statement saying, “Everyone has the opportunity to deny the wrong reports about him. But such an act is a cowardly attack on the freedom of expression.”