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GULBARGA: A group of Muslims on Friday attacked the office of the Kannada daily Samyukta Karnataka here and assaulted the staff. Three employees of the newspaper were severely injured. The assailants were protesting against a report on the head of a local dargah.

The daily’s circulation manager Vilas Deshpande, who suffered serious head injuries, has been admitted to the Government General Hospital, and his condition stated to be serious.

Executive Editor of the newspaper Srikantacharya Mannur, who was an eyewitness to the incident, said that about 15 persons shouting slogans against the newspapers started assaulting the staff in the front office where the circulation and advertisement departments functioned.

The mob tried to storm into the editorial and the computer room before the other staff pushed them out of the main door.

“We were taken by surprise at the attack and initially we were not aware of the reason for the attack and nobody in the crowd was in a position to hear us. Nobody told us why they were protesting,” Mr. Mannur said.

The mob damaged a four-wheeler that belonged to the daily and damaged the vehicles parked in front of the newspaper office before being chased away by the police. The police picked up seven persons in connection with the attack from a building in front of the newspaper office.

Senior officials, including the Superintendent of Police Padmanayan, visited newspaper office and inspected the damage.

The news about the attack on the newspaper office spread and tension prevailed in some parts of the city. Journalists protesting against the attack staged a “rasta roko” agitation at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Chowk. Many organisations, including the Kannada Rakshana Vedike, joined the protest by the journalists. Communist Party of India (Marxist) State Secretariat member Maruti Manpade condemned the attack.

Muslims staged a protest demonstration in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s office in the city demanding action against the newspaper for publishing a report which had hurt their religious sentiments.

In a memorandum to the Deputy Commissioner, the signatories said: “The newspaper had published indecent allegations and used vulgar words against the Honorable Shaikh Tajuddin Junaidi, Sajjada Nasheen of the Dargah of famous saint Sirajuddin Junaidi, who is known as Shaik-e-Deccan.”

The memorandum said “the paper has printed (the report) without any validity and (regard for) the rules of publishing” and demanded the closure of the newspaper. The senior officials who met the protesters at the Deputy Commissioner’s office said that they would look into the complaint and take action. The officials rejected the demand that the police should release those picked up in connection with the violence at the newspaper’s office.

Karnataka Union Working of Journalists has decided to take out a procession protesting against the attack on Samyukta Karnataka on Saturday and demand protection to newspapers and journalists.

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    Basavaraj Harsur


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