Protest by little known outfit against coverage of a minor couple's elopement
40 cars smashed, staff attacked18 persons arrested
MUMBAI: Members of the little known Hindu Rashtra Sena on Monday attacked and ransacked the Star News office here protesting the coverage of the elopement of a minor girl and a boy, belonging to different communities and hailing from Surat in Gujarat.
Executive editor Chandramohan Puppala suffered minor injuries when he attempted to pacify the protesters. The group caused property damage and smashed over 40 cars.
At least 18 persons were arrested and 10 hammers recovered from the spot, the police said. The protesters, who came in tempos, entered the office premises at Mahalaxmi in Central Mumbai, one by one under the guise of visitors. Armed with hammers and iron rods, they smashed cars. Shouting slogans against Star News, they then entered the reception area and broke several glass panes. The protesters also attempted to enter the newsroom and server areas on the ground floor, which were under renovation. At least one security guard was injured.
The group left behind deep saffron flags and posters in the damaged area which was covered with glass pieces. The saffron flags had drawings of `Swastika' and `Om.' The posters had the names of Dr.B.R. Ambedkar, Guru Gobind Singh and historic figures Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivaji and his son Sambhaji.
The eloping girl and boy, who had come to the Star News office, told the channel that they were scared of pursuers and hence needed help. They were taken to a local police station and then sent back to Gujarat under protection.
However, the Hindu Rashtra Sena alleged that the channel "glorified the love story and was anti-national."
Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister R.R. Patil, who visited the office, promised strict action against the offenders. "I strongly condemn the attack. Attacks on the media will not be tolerated by this government. The police have already arrested 18 persons. We have also traced their vehicles, and we will arrest the rest by tomorrow [Tuesday]. "
Joint commissioner (Law and Order) Arup Patnaik, who also reached the spot, said the group was an unknown outfit and the police would trace the miscreants.
One Dhananjay Desai, who has 13 cases against his name, allegedly heads the group, according to a police official.
Star News spokesperson said, "We condemn this attack on our office by certain anti-social elements. They completely ransacked the office, injuring our security and other staff and causing huge financial damage. It is alarming that people are using such means to register their protests. We believe that this is a reaction to our coverage of a young couple, who eloped from Surat. As a responsible news channel, we have factually reported the situation surrounding the same. We will cooperate fully with the authorities to ensure that necessary action is taken."
PTI reports from New Delhi:
The Editors Guild of India on Monday condemned the attack on the office of Star News in Mumbai by activists of the Hindu Rashtra Sena, saying it is unacceptable in a democratic society.
``The hooliganism unleashed against the television channel shows the growth of intolerance in our society and the scant respect shown towards freedom of the press by members of extremist organisations,'' a Guild statement said. The Guild has demanded that the Maharashtra Government take effective steps to curb activities of such organisations.
``Trespass, destruction of property and intimidation of employees of media organisations is unacceptable in a democratic society,'' it said.
In another statement, the India TV Editor-in-Chief Rajat Sharma said the media must unite against radical and insane elements so that readers and viewers across the world lend their support.
``It is important to recognise that unlike political leaders and functionaries of the executive and judiciary, the media has no means to protect itself from such acts,'' Mr. Sharma added.