Apparently irked by a report in Marathi daily Maharashtra Times which speculated that a sitting Shiv Sena MP was on his way to Nationalist Congress Party, alleged Sena workers today vandalised the reception area of Times of India building in Mumbai on Saturday.
Sixteen people had been detained in connection with the attack, said Joint Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Rajnish Seth. While the police did not say which party they belonged to, Shiv Sena denied that attackers were party workers.
The newspaper belongs to TOI group. Around 20-25 men entered the lobby of TOI building around 1 pm and damaged some furniture, flower pots, etc, but could not go up to the Maharashtra Times office as the security staff stopped them.
Sena spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member of Parliament, Sanjay Raut, said, "Shiv Sena has nothing to do with this attack." Maharashtra Times, in Saturday's edition, has carried a report saying that Sena MP, Anandrao Adsul may be joining NCP.
The report followed announcement by NCP on Friday that an MP from the state was going to enter the party on Saturday. However, not Adsul, but former Shiv Sena MP Shivaji Mane, who had later joined Congress, on Saturday entered NCP.
NCP has netted leaders from Shiv Sena and BJP recently. Panditanna Munde, elder brother of Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gopinath Munde, joined NCP last week, and his son (Gopinath's nephew)Dhananjay too is likely to follow. Anand Paranjpe, Shiv Sena MP from Kalyan, has also indicated that he would be going over to NCP.
Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena condemned the attack. "They should have instead forced the newspaper to disclose the (correct) information on the front page. There was no need to vandalise the office," said MNS spokesperson Shirish Parkar.
NCP denounced the act, dubbing it as "an attack on the freedom of speech". "The people from Mumbai will give an appropriate answer to the violent behaviour," it said.
Maharashtra Home Minister, R R Patil, said police would find out which organisation or leader were behind the attack. "I strongly condemn the incident," Patil said.
Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar also condemned the incident, saying there was no place for such things in the democracy. Adsul, meanwhile, defended the incident, saying "it was a reaction to an action".
"I will approach the Press Council against the defamatory article," Adsul said, without owning responsibility for the attack.
"Those activists had gone there to protest, but were manhandled," he claimed. Mumbai Press Club issued a statement condemning the attack.
"The attack is not just an attack on the Maharashtra Times or Times of India Group, but the entire media fraternity. Such attacks would not be tolerated," it said.
Noting that attacks on mediapersons and media houses by political workers had increased of late, the Press Club rued that despite requests, the state government was not taking steps to make such acts a non-bailable and cognisable offence. A protest rally would be organised on Monday or Tuesday, the statement said.