The Outlook office in Mumbai was vandalised by ‘suspected’ Shiv Sainiks. Nothing new, nothing unexpected. My copy of the magazine, which was purportedly the reason behind the ruckus, landed on my doorstep this morning (the liabilities of being a subscriber, copies always arrive late). Though not as enjoyable a 60th Year of Independence edition as I would have expected, not too bad either. In comparison India Today’s special issue which had come out in late June (Issue dated July 2, 2007) was a trivia treat.

Outlook‘s India at 60 I-Day Special carried a list of 60 heroes from the last six decades and 14 villains from the same era. Ideally it should’ve been a list of an equivalent number of rogues but then anniversaries are about celebrating the good things. The rogue list included the following: Nathuram Godse, Gaya Ram, the faceless terrorist, Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Sanjay Gandhi, Narenda Modi, Mohammed Azharuddin, HKL Bhagat, Sajjan Kumar, Jagdish Tytler, Dawood Ibrahim, Beant Singh, Satwant Singh and of course Bal Keshav Thackeray.

And as always, the Sena supremo’s followers took offence at the 119-word description of their leader which was accompanied by a cartoon (see accompanying image) which I think the cartoonist inside Thackeray (if it still exists) would’ve applauded. But in a democracy like ours, where you can get away with many a serious offence, offence naturally becomes the best mode of defence even on the slightest of pretexts. And the Sena is a veteran in these tactics.

In March 2005, the India Today office in Nariman Point was similarly attacked. India Today, rather it’s sister publication Business Today ‘transgressed’ by inviting Mani Shankar Aiyar to preside over an award ceremony organised by the magazine. Aiyar had some comments on Veer Savarkar which the Sena and its allies found unsavoury. Marathi daily Mahanagar, which had been critical of the Sena was also the subject of its ire.

It’s not that the Shiv Sainiks have a special liking for the press as targets; they also show an unbiased wrath towards BCCI offices, cricket pitches, hospitals, films, Pakistani singers, couples amongst innumerable others. This attack on Outlook is not an attack on freedom of expression, it is an attack in retaliation of a sacrilege. An unpardonable behaviour. And hence entirely justified. And this will continue till the day everybody toes the Sena line, however crooked that may be.

Thank god that Dawood hasn’t yet taken offence…

Interestingly, Outlook didn’t carry the illustration credits in this issue, something that they usually do.

Image courtesy: Outlook
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