Sanjay Raut, Sena MP and editor of the party mouthpiece Saamna admitted to The Hindu over telephone that those who targeted the IBN offices in Mumbai and Pune on Friday were Shiv Sainiks.
“Yes, we accept they were Sainiks. The [attackers] claim they were Sainiks, so we have to accept that. But this attack was spontaneous. No one told them. For the past few days, the channel has been using bad language against Bal Thackeray. Nikhil Wagle has been consistently using inappropriate words against him, calling him ‘an old man.’ So those people might have been hurt. I mean Bal Thackeray is 83, he is a leader with considerable influence among the people.
“Even The Hindu has been critical, but have we ever attacked The Hindu? Why is only one person being attacked? This is not an attack on the media.”
However, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan has condemned the incident and promised stringent action. “Journalists have every right to express their views. Press freedom cannot be gagged in such a way. The incident is not a good reflection on Maharashtra,” he said in a statement. Senior political leaders from across parties and media associations have condemned the attack.
Mr. Wagle in his indictment of Mr. Raut said, “One of the attackers said he was from Bhandup, which is the constituency of Mr. Raut. The Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) has conquered the Sena bastion. This attack is by instruction. It was a pre-planned political attack. It was coordinated to occur simultaneously in the two cities. The response of the police was also deplorable. It took them 20 minutes to come after repeated calls. There was a police van outside the office in the morning, which was nowhere to be seen when the incident took place.”
Mr. Chavan has promised stringent action against the culprits. He has also pledged to bring the “brain” behind the incident to book. State Home Minister R.R. Patil said, “We will teach such a lesson that none will dare to attack again.”
Mumbai Police Commissioner D. Sivanandan said, “We will arrest as many people as possible and go deep into the matter. Nobody will be spared. We will not tolerate this.”
Seven persons were arrested in Mumbai. Arrests were also made in Pune.