Pune, Feb 10 (PTI) As many as ten BJP workers were arrested on Saturday in connection with an attack on senior Marathi journalist Nikhil Wagle in Pune city, an incident which also drew condemnation from the The Editors Guild of India which urged the Maharashtra government to take action against the culprits. Opposition Congress said the attack on the "outspoken journalist" reflected the collapse of law and order in the state.
A day after a car carrying Wagle and others to a public meeting came under attack, a First Information Report (FIR) was registered at Parvati police station in the city on Saturday evening, said a police official.
The accused were booked under Indian Penal Code sections 147 (rioting), 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means), 336 (causing grievous hurt by an act endangering life or personal safety), 427 (causing damage to property) and other relevant provisions, he said.
Protesting against the senior journalist's comments about the Narendra Modi government conferring the country's highest civilian honour `Bharat Ratna' on BJP veteran L K Advani, alleged BJP activists vandalised a car in which Wagle and activists Aseem Sarode and Vishwambhar Choudhary were travelling under police protection to the 'Nirbhay Bano' public meeting organised by Rashtra Seva Dal on Friday evening.
The complaint filed by a woman, on which the FIR was based, claimed that she and a few others were protecting Wagle's car even as some BJP workers hurled stones at the vehicle and injured them.
Arrested workers were identified as Deepak Pote, Ganesh Ghosh, Ganesh Sherla, Raghvendra Mankar, Swapnil Naik, Pratik Desarda, Dushyant Mohol, Datta Sagre, Girish Mankar and Rahul Paygude.
Police also registered a case against Wagle and Pune city unit presidents of the BJP, Shiv Sena (UBT) and Congress for allegedly violating section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code. "The case was registered against them as the event (`Nirbhay Bano' public meeting) was being held without police permission," said Sambhaji Kadam, deputy commissioner of police.
Earlier, another case had been registered against Wagle for allegedly making offensive remarks against PM Modi and Advani under IPC sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 500 (defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) at Vishrambaug police station on a complaint lodged by BJP leader Sunil Deodhar.
In a statement issued from the national capital, the The Editors Guild of India condemned the attack on the journalist.
"The Editors Guild calls on the administration in Pune and the Maharashtra government to book the guilty," it said.
It also noted that FIRs were registered against Wagle over his statement, and expressed deep concern about the "misuse of criminal laws against journalists in an effort to intimidate and harass them." "We urge law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint before registering complaints against journalists as an FIR, lest the process of investigation becomes a punishment itself," the Guild said.
In a post on X in Hindi, Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge said, "Law and order has collapsed under the Maharashtra government formed by the BJP's stealing of mandate." "A politician is being brutally murdered on Facebook Live. An outspoken journalist is being attacked by unruly goons of the BJP-RSS. A BJP MLA is openly shooting at another politician in the police station," Kharge said.
He was referring to the murder of Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Abhishek Ghosalkar in Mumbai and an incident in Thane district earlier this month where BJP MLA Ganpat Gaikwad opened fire inside a police station and injured a worker of the Shiv Sena.
Kharge further said that economic development of Maharashtra became possible because Congress governments maintained law and order, but the BJP government "formed with the force of the Enforcement Directorate" was playing with the security of the people of Maharashtra by spreading "goonda raj". PTI COR SKU ASK ARU KRK KRK