New Delhi: As a TV news channel stood by filming the entire incident, three Sri Ram Sene activists roughed up Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan inside his Supreme Court chamber for his comments on Kashmir. The brazen attack sparked massive public and political outrage with Bhushan calling for ban on the outfit.
Three youths stormed into Bhushan’s chamber and one of them, identified as Inder Verma, started beating him up. Verma, later on, was overpowered by lawyers and others present in the room, the TV visuals showed. The youths said they objected to his comments on Kashmir, Bhushan said later.
“The accused, Inder Verma who lives in Nangloi, has been arrested from the Supreme Court premises and his two accomplices — Vishnu Gupta and Tejender Pal — are on the run,” said a senior police official.
Police said that raids are on to nab the two youths.
Taking responsibility for the assault, Sri Ram Sene’s state unit general secretary Tushar Agarwal, said: “Comments made by Prashant Bhushan on Jammu and Kashmir were anti-national and anyone who will make such comments will not spared.”
Bhushan was taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital for his injuries, which doctors said were not major.
Speaking in the evening at a press conference at his residence in suburban Noida, Bhushan called for a ban on the Sene.
“This is an organisation which needs to be socially boycotted in this country and perhaps banned by the government. This Sri Ram Sene is known for its goondaism for its unprovoked assault on unarmed people who are totally caught off-guard,” said Bhushan.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram, condemning the attack, said: “Nobody has the right to take law in their hands and I have asked Delhi Police to take appropriate action against the people involved in the attack.”
Inder Verma, who is said to be Sri Ram Sene’s Delhi unit president, told reporters: “We had gone to seek his response about his statement on Kashmir. He had talked about giving away Kashmir to Pakistan, which we we strongly protest. It’s an insult to martyrs and this will not be tolerated in India.”
The activists had scattered pamphlets with the name of Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena after beating Bhushan.
Sri Ram Sene, a Karnataka based right-wing outfit, has taken the responsibility for the attack.
TV channel TIMES NOW, which showed visuals of the incident, said its crew was with Prashant Bhushan at the time for his comments on the Lokpal bill.
Bhushan had gone to Varanasi two weeks ago where during a press conference he was asked if he would favour a referendum in Kashmir. He had replied that there could be a referendum. It is this comment that angered the group, Bhushan said.
The attack was widely condemned.
Anna Hazare condemned the attack on Bhushan, a key member of his team, and demanded security for his aides for “some time.”
Veteran lawyer Shanti Bhushan, the father of Prashant Bhushan, said: “I don’t mind if any attack takes place on our men. I will still keep on doing right things. Those who are afraid and fearful will never be able to do correct things.”
“No words are enough to describe this barbaric act. Strictest punishment should be given to these people and the true identity of these people should be found,” Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
Condemning the attack, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJ) spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “Whatever is the due process of law, it should be taken on this. BJP has nothing to do with these people,”
“From the media, we understand it is some Bhagat Singh Sena, we have nothing to do with it. If the individual claims any association with the Yuva Morcha, the Yuva Morcha will give its clarification. We are equally shocked, I don’t think this country can tolerate such violence whatever the reason may be,” she added.
The Sri Ram Sene had shot to notoriety in 2009 for attacking in Karnataka young women in restaurants and young couples in parks, and for opposing Valentine’s Day on the ground that it was against Indian culture.