Senior lawyer and Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was violently attacked by activists of the Shri Ram Sena and a previously unknown outfit, Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena, in his chamber located opposite the heavily guarded Supreme Court premises on Bhagwan Dass Road here on Wednesday. The organisations claimed that the assault was in retaliation for his recent statement on Jammu and Kashmir, purportedly supporting the demand for withdrawal of security forces and a referendum to gauge public opinion.
While one of the thugs was overpowered by lawyers and handed over to the police, the others ran away. During interrogation, the captured assailant identified himself as Inder Verma, president of Shri Ram Sena's Delhi unit. He purportedly revealed the name of another assailant as Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, president of the Bhagat Singh Kranti Sena.
Tajinder had earlier disrupted Arundhati Roy's book release, climbed on the bonnet of a car in which Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had arrived at the Foreign Correspondents Club recently, and had once tried to disrupt Syed Ali Shah Geelani's speech at a seminar in the Capital, said a police officer.
Mr. Bhushan was being interviewed by a Times Now news channel crew in his chamber located on the third floor of the New Lawyers Chamber building when the assailants barged in around 4.15 p.m. shouting slogans on Kashmir. “We are questioning Inder to ascertain if the outfit had informed any media group as part of their plan before assaulting Mr. Bhushan,” said the officer.
The accused have been booked for entering into a conspiracy to commit house trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint and voluntarily causing hurt. The attack sparked off a protest against “communal and divisive forces” by India Against Corruption activists outside the Tilak Marg police station.
Pranav Sachdeva, the senior lawyer's assistant, said: “They did not have any word with Mr. Bhushan and instead attacked him instantly.” Even as the television camera kept rolling, the miscreants slapped Mr. Bhushan, hurled blows, tore off his shirt and kicked him as he lost his balance and fell in the melee.
Mr. Bhushan's juniors and colleagues, who came rushing in as they heard the commotion, pounced on the assailants and managed to catch hold of one of them. The others fled but not before throwing around pamphlets which they brought with them.
The pamphlets accused the senior lawyer of attacking the country's unity and integrity in the name of human rights. The outfits accused him of pushing his “hidden agenda” by associating himself with India Against Corruption.
They also accused him of opposing the death sentence to Parliament attack case convict Afzal Guru and Mumbai terror attack convict Ajmal Kasab.
Statement to police
The lawyer, who sustained injuries in the leg and head, was taken to the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital.
Later, on being discharged from the hospital, Mr. Bhushan gave his statement to the police.
Thereafter at a press conference, Mr. Bhushan called on the government to think of banning and socially ostracising organisations like Shri Ram Sena, which, he said, were “known for goondaism and unprovoked assault on several people who have been caught off-guard by the attacks.”
“Today [on Wednesday] around 4 p.m. when I came back to my chamber, a team from Times Now channel was waiting to interview me. A group of three young men then assaulted me with fists and kicks and a couple of my clerks, juniors and other lawyers tried to stop them. Two of them ran away. One of them was caught. He said he was from Shri Ram Sena and was shouting something about Kashmir.”
Mr. Bhushan exhorted his supporters not to react violently to the assault on him.
“I received calls from my friends and supporters and many of them were agitated. None of Shri Ram Sena people should be attacked. Violence should not be met with violence. There will be legal proceedings against the three men who attacked me. One person is already under arrest,” he added.