A vehicle carrying journalist Nikhil Wagle, activist Vishwambhar Choudhary and human rights lawyer Asim Sarode was attacked in Pune by alleged Bharatiya Janata Party supporters on Friday, The Indian Express reported.
The car was attacked when Wagle, Choudhary and Sarode were travelling to the “Nirbhay Bano” event in Pune.
Earlier on Friday, Wagle was booked by the Pune Police for making allegedly defamatory remarks about Prime Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leader LK Advani. The case was registered based on a complaint filed by BJP leader Sunil Deodhar, according to PTI.
Deodhar said in his complaint that Wagle made the alleged defamatory remarks after Modi announced on February 3 that Advani would be conferred the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian award.
The journalist was booked under Indian Penal Code Sections 153 A (promoting enmity between different groups), 500 (punishment for defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief).
The BJP’s city unit had urged Pune Police to revoke permission for the “Nirbhaya Bano” event, where Wagle was one of the speakers.
On the other hand, the Congress’ city unit chief Arvind Shinde had written to the Pune Police commissioner demanding additional security at the event venue, reported Hindustan Times.
At the venue on Friday evening, alleged BJP supporters and workers of Opposition parties had a scuffle, reports suggest. While some BJP workers shouted slogans against Wagle, the Opposition workers shouted “Jai Bheem” and “Bharat Mata ki Jai” slogans.
Television visuals also showed the alleged BJP workers throwing ink on the car, mobbing the vehicle and vandalising it at Khandoji Baba Chowk. The attack damaged the vehicle’s windscreen and side panes.
Choudhary said that the police got them safely to the event. “The windshield of our vehicle was broken,” he told The Indian Express.
Addressing the “Nirbhay Bano” event, Wagle said: “I forgive all those who attacked me. I have been attacked six times earlier and this was the seventh.”
After the incident, Sanjay Raut, a leader of the Uddhav Thackeray-led faction of the Shiv Sena, alleged that several women members of the Maha Vikas Aghadi were “beaten up by BJP goons” and eggs, stones and bricks were thrown at them while the “Pune police remain spectators”. Maha Vikas Aghadi is the Opposition alliance in the state.
“Brazen bid to murder democracy by BJP in Pune...” Raut said in a social media post. “MVA will not be deterred, shame on you [Deputy Chief Minister] Devendra Fadnavis, you are ordering your cadre to harm and injure hapless daughters of Maharashtra...Maharashtra will not forgive you.”
Supriya Sule, a leader of the Sharad-Pawar-led faction of the Nationalist Congress Party, condemned the attack on Wagle, “a voice of truth and a beacon of journalism”.
“This is not just an assault on an individual but an attack on freedom of speech itself,” Sule said in a social media post. “The deteriorating law and order situation in Maharashtra under the BJP regime that is tacitly enabling such acts is alarming and warrants strictest accountability.”