Nikhil Wagle faces violent protest in Pune
Journalist Nikhil Wagle’s car was attacked on Friday by BJP workers in Pune while he was on his way to attend an event organised by Rashtra Seva Dal. The saffron party workers were angry over Wagle’s remarks against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and LK Advani after the BJP patriarch was awarded the Bharat Ratna.
Television visuals showed BJP workers mobbing the car at Khandoji Baba Chowk and damaging the vehicle’s windscreen and side panes. They also threw ink and eggs on the car. Wagle, who was accompanied by activist Vishwambar Choudhari and lawyer Asim Sarode, managed to escape under police protection.
Wagle forgives attackers, slams BJP regime
Later at the venue, Wagle delivered his speech saying, “I forgive all those who attacked me. I have been attacked six times earlier and this was the seventh.” He also said that he was not afraid of such attacks and would continue to speak the truth.
Wagle also criticised the BJP government in Maharashtra for failing to maintain law and order and accused it of enabling such acts of violence. He said that the BJP was trying to suppress dissenting voices and create a rift between communities. He urged the people to vote for the Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), the opposition alliance of NCP, Congress and Shiv Sena, in the upcoming elections.
Case registered against Wagle for defamatory remarks
Earlier in the day, a case was registered against Wagle by BJP leader Sunil Deodhar for allegedly making offensive remarks against the PM and Advani. Wagle had posted on social media that Modi and Advani did not deserve the Bharat Ratna, the highest civilian honour of the country.
“Nikhil Wagle has been booked under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 500 (defamation) and 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at Vishrambaug police station. We are probing the matter further,” a police official said.
Opposition condemns attack, BJP defends protest
The attack on Wagle drew sharp condemnation from the opposition parties, who called it an attack on freedom of speech and democracy. NCP leader Supriya Sule said, “Strongly condemn the attack on Nikhil 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. The deteriorating law and order situation in Maharashtra under the BJP regime that is tacitly enabling such acts is alarming and warrants strictest accountability.”
Congress leader Sachin Sawant said, “This is the goonda raj of BJP in Maharashtra. They have no respect for the Constitution, the law or the media. They are trying to intimidate and silence those who expose their misdeeds and corruption. We demand strict action against the attackers and the BJP leaders who instigated them.”
However, the BJP defended its workers and said that they were protesting peacefully against Wagle’s derogatory remarks. BJP spokesperson Keshav Upadhye said, “Nikhil Wagle has hurt the sentiments of crores of Indians by insulting PM Modi and LK Advani, who have dedicated their lives to the nation. Our workers have only expressed their anger in a democratic manner. Wagle should apologise for his comments and stop spreading lies and propaganda against the BJP.”