For asking why a Shivaji statue, Loksatta Editorís home attacked

Activists of a radical pro-Marathi organisation today attacked and vandalised the house of Kumar Ketkar, Editor of Loksatta, the Marathi newspaper of The Indian Express Group, protesting against an editorial that mocked the state government plans to install a 309-foot-tall statue of Shivaji in the Arabian Sea off Marine Drive.

Some 70-80 men belonging to the Shiv Sangram, considered a socio-religious outfit and led by former NCP MLC Vinayak Methe, hurled stones, broke window panes, tarred doors and windows and tried to break into Ketkar's house in the Kopri area of Thane. They also burnt copies of Loksatta on the road outside the house.

Ketkar and his wife were at home but were unhurt in the attack which started a little after 10 am and lasted for about 15-20 minutes until police arrived and dispersed the mob. Thane police said seven men were arrested and one policeman was injured in the violence.

Thane Police Commissioner Anil Dhere said the men had been booked for rioting, criminal intimidation and obstructing police from doing their duty. He said more arrests were likely and action would also be taken against Shiv Sangram founder Methe who had "owned up responsibility for the attack while talking to TV channels".

Justifying the attack, Methe told The Indian Express: "After so many years, the state government has passed the proposal of installing Chhatrapati Shivaji's statue in the Arabian Sea. He (Ketkar) has used derogatory language against Chhatrapati Shivaji to oppose the move. So our workers attacked his residence in protest."

"It was a physical reaction to atrocious writing," Methe said, adding that although he would not support violence, such incidents were "a spontaneous reaction by people".

But Ketkar said the attack seemed well-planned. "They knew I would be home at the time of the attack. Also, my flat doesn't have my name plate for identification, so they must have surveyed the area well in advance" he said, rejecting Methe's charge that the editorial was critical of Shivaji.

The editorial ó its Marathi headline translates to "Shivshahi Has Arrived" and is reproduced on Page 13 of this edition ó was critical of the government and politicians for resorting to symbolisms instead of tackling serious problems gripping the state, Ketkar said.

"It was a semi-murderous attack but we are not going to be bogged down by it," Ketkar said. "Loksatta and The Indian Express belong to a media group for whom Journalism of Courage is not just a slogan. Loksatta is a people's paper and what we have written is in the public interest. Shivaji Maharaj himself did not go around erecting statues, he instead attended to people's problems."

Shiv Sangram, he said, had attacked Loksatta's office in Ahmednagar in 2006 for not publishing Shivaji's picture on the front page of the newspaper on the occasion of Shiv Jayanti.

Today's incident drew widespread condemnation from politicians and the media. But political analysts and media observers said newspapers and TV channels were frequently targeted in the state and most Maharashtra parties were guilty of either encouraging or backing such attacks or turning a blind eye.

Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said the attack had hurt Maharashtra's reputation and promised tough action against the perpetrators. Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil of the NCP too promised stern action even if those behind the attack had "high connections".

State NCP chief Arun Gujarathi said his party had nothing to do with what had happened and urged action "as per the law of the land".

But political sources said that Shiv Sangram, floated about a decade ago, enjoys strong support from orthodox Marathas in the state, mainly from the NCP of Sharad Pawar which is a partner in the state's coalition government. Though the organisation is not formally connected to the NCP, Methe was nominated by the party to the state legislative council in 1996 and he was an MLC until 2006.

Shiv Sangram, they said, was covertly promoted by Marathas in the NCP to counter the influence of Chhagan Bhujbal's Mahatma Phule Samata Parishad (MPSP). Bhujbal, a former Shiv Sena leader, joined the Congress in 1992 and has since been with Pawar. He is now the state PWD minister.

Attacks on media in Maharashtra

2004

Nikhil Wagle, owner and editor of Mahanagar, was attacked by Shiv Sena activists for making "derogatory" remarks about party leaders.

Sajid Rashid, editor of Hamara Mahanagar, was stabbed in the back twice, after an alleged hate campaign against him.

2006

Zee TV studio in Mumbai ransacked by Shiv Sena workers over a satirical skit about the Thackerays.

Loksatta office in Maharashtra's Ahmednagar attacked because the newspaper did not publish Shivaji's picture on the front page on the occasion of Shiv Jayanti.

2007

Members of Hindu Rashtra Sena attacked the office of Star News in Mumbai over a story on the elopement of a boy and girl from different communities.

Shiv Sena members attacked the office of Outlook in Mumbai for calling Balasaheb Thackeray a villain.

Editors Guild demands action, says every right to express views on public issues

New Delhi: Condemning the attack on the residence of Kumar Ketkar, the Editors Guild of India today demanded stringent action in the matter. "In a democracy every editor and journalist has the unfettered right to express his or her views on public issues," the Guild said in a statement here.

Such independent views need not necessarily meet the approval of the dominant groups and personalities in government and politics and they cannot attack the editor for expressing such views, said the statement issued by Alok Mehta and K S Sachidananda Murty, the president and secretary general of the Guild respectively.

"The Maharashtra Government should ensure that no one, however powerful they might be, would threaten the freedom of the press," the statement said.

THE PIECE THEY SET AFIRE:

All the problems have been solved. So let's build the statue -Kumar Ketkar

  • Tags:
Please read our terms of use before posting comments
TERMS OF USE: The views, opinions and comments posted are your, and are not endorsed by this website. You shall be solely responsible for the comment posted here. The website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted or part thereof. You shall ensure that the comment is not inflammatory, abusive, derogatory, defamatory &/or obscene, or contain pornographic matter and/or does not constitute hate mail, or violate privacy of any person (s) or breach confidentiality or otherwise is illegal, immoral or contrary to public policy. Nor should it contain anything infringing copyright &/or intellectual property rights of any person(s).
comments powered by Disqus