Journalist Nikhil Wagle’s car attacked by BJP workers in Pune, press groups slam violence

An FIR had been filed against Wagle for a ‘defamatory’ tweet on Modi and Advani.

WrittenBy:NL Team
Journalist Nikhil Wagle with a picture of his damaged vehicle.
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After journalist Nikhil Wagle’s vehicle was attacked by alleged BJP workers in Pune last night, the Mumbai Press Club issued a statement strongly condemning it.

“All have the right to express their opinions. However, disagreement is a matter of debate and not the trigger to unleash violence on one's political opponents,” the press body tweeted.

The Network of Women in Media, India also issued a statement extending its “unwavering support” to Wagle.

“This assault is further evidence of the BJP’s recurring pattern of intolerance toward journalists who dare to question it. Resorting to brute force to silence dissent only underscores the party’s inability and unwillingness to engage in civilised debate. However, those who targeted Wagle underestimate his resilience,” the statement said.

NWMI also flagged the “perpetrators’ alleged affiliation with those in power” and the “track record” of BJP governments to raise concerns about “potential leniency from law enforcement authorities”.

The Press Council of India said it was “deeply disturbed” by the attack and that “targeting journalists to silence them or to threaten them] for their views are condemnable and unacceptable”.

Digipub said the attack is an “escalation of the violence that journalists in India are subjected to, even as members of the governing party issue threats against them”.

Describing the attack as a “disgrace to democracy”, the statement said: “In a democracy, expressing an opinion on social media cannot and should not result in a police case, threats and assaults...A healthy democracy is built on freedom of the press and journalists have the right to express themselves without persecution.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists urged authorities to “investigate the attack swiftly and hold the perpetrators accountable”.

The Brihanmumbai Union of Journalists said the “sinister hounding” of Wagle by “right-wing vigilantes” is “yet another indication of the darker times that we are hurtling towards”. These vigilantes “operate across large swathes of the country with brazen impunity” while rule of law “operates not as a scaffolding to uphold and protect the rights of citizens but as a sledgehammer to bludgeon and trample dissent and inconvenient opinion”.

The Editors Guild of India said attacking Wagle for voicing an opinion is “unjust, illegal and deplorable”.

“The Editors Guild calls on the administration in Pune and the Maharashtra government to book the guilty...We urge law enforcement agencies to exercise restraint before registration complaints against journalists as an FIR, lest the process of investigation becomes a punishment itself,” it said.

An FIR and attacks

The Pune police had lodged an FIR against Wagle yesterday over a “defamatory” social media post that criticised Narendra Modi and LK Advani over the latter being awarded the Bharat Ratna. His post, written in Marathi, said the award was “from one rioter to another”. 

Later that evening, Wagle was heading for a ‘Nirbhay Bano’ event. The BJP Pune unit had sought the cancellation of the event in a letter to the city police and had also threatened to disrupt the programme. 

Wagle’s vehicle was allegedly attacked at four different locations. According to The Indian Express, the vehicle was stopped by BJP workers who shouted slogans and smashed the windows. They also pelted eggs and ink on the car.

Wagle, who spoke at the event, was accompanied by activist Vishwambar Choudhari and lawyer Asim Sarode. 

Indian Express reported that Wagle was escorted to the venue by Maha Vikas Aghadi workers. Several women workers were also allegedly attacked “in full view of hundreds of police personnel”. 

Opposition leaders slammed the Shinde-Fadnavis government for its “brazen bid to murder democracy”. The police later said they detained 20 BJP workers “because no police permission was taken for the agitation”.

The Maharashtra government has been criticised for growing violence in the state. Over the last seven days, two shootings have turned up the heat on Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and his deputy Devendra Fadnavis. Read here.

This report was published with AI assistance. It was updated with statements from other press groups.

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