INDIA: Popular magazine's office ransacked

In brief: Outlook magazine had depicted Hindu nationalist group's leader as a villain in its Independence Day special issue

By Natasha Garyali
AsiaMedia Contributing Writer

Thursday, August 16, 2007

A day before India's 60th Independence Day, a popular Indian magazine was attacked by a Hindu fundamentalist group.

According to reports, Outlook magazine's office in Mumbai was attacked by a group of eight to 10 people last Tuesday afternoon. The assailants barged into the office and smashed the window frames and damaged computers and office equipments. No one was injured.

In an interview with the Associated Press, Outlook editor Vinod Mehta said that the men who carried out the attack said that they belonged to Shiv Sena, a Hindu right-wing political party based in Maharashtra. Staff members, he added, are worried because the assailants have threatened to strike again.

Outlook published an article for its Independence Day issue on Aug. 15 which contained a list of "Heroes and Villains." Included in the list of villains was Bal Thackeray, the leader of Shiv Sena. The article cites Thackeray's fiery speeches and provocative articles against Muslims which he wrote during the communal riots that rocked Mumbai in 1992 and 1993.

"This former cartoonist has reduced democratic politics to a poor caricature of what it was supposed to be -- in style, in substance, and even rhetoric," the article reads. "He built his political following by demonizing the 'other.'" The article was accompanied by a cartoon depicting Thackeray dressed as Adolf Hitler.

The police are investigating the attack and are yet to make any arrests.

According to reports, the Editors Guild of India said in a statement that political parties should be working to curb violence and urged civil society to mobile itself to protect freedom of expression.

Mahatma Gandhi's killer, Nathuram Godse, Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, and underworld don Dawood Ibrahim are also on Outlook's list of villains.