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India 6 July 2004

Militant nationalists attack Mumbai daily

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) condemned militant Hindu nationalists of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) who raided the offices of the daily Mahanagar in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), physically attacked three journalists and ransacked the premises. Journalists Yuvraj Mohite, Jayesh Shirsat and Vaishali Rode were all slightly injured in the raid.

The international press freedom organisation pointed out that it was the fifth such attack on the paper in the last 15 years, all of which had gone unpunished.

The planned attack was against a media that has repeatedly stood out against the growing extremism of certain political parties, it added.

The organisation called on the head of government for Maharashtra State, Shri Sushilkumar Shinde, to hold an official investigation to find and punish the perpetrators and those who ordered the attacks.

The young BJP militants who invaded the newspaper offices on 29 June, were looking for the editor, Nikhil Wagle, who was out of the office at the time. Frustrated by his absence they turned on the journalists who were there.

The newspaper’s premises stand opposite a police post, but the security forces did not intervene.

The raid was apparently in reprisal for the publication three days earlier of an article about prostitutes in Pandharpur, near Mumbai. Nikhil Wagle told Reporters Without Borders that the BJP was seeking revenge for the newspaper’s critical coverage of the party at recent general elections. The local leaders had been seeking scapegoats to blame for their electoral defeat.

The militant Hindu nationalists accuse the editor of being "pro-Muslim" and "anti-nationalist". The state interior home affairs visited the offices after the attack and promised the state government would do everything possible to arrest those responsible.

Police arrested nine people, some of them BJP staff in Mumbai, who were placed in custody. The federal police, the CID, were put in charge of the investigation.

Over the past six months, crews working for television channels Zee News and Sahara have been attacked while working in Mumbai.

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