A group of Shiv Sena workers, headed by Kamlesh Kadam — the shakha pramukh of the party’s Kandivali unit in Mumbai — attacked a retired Navy officer on Friday after he forwarded a cartoon depicting Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Kadam and one of his associates were later arrested. The victim, Madan Sharma (65), had served as a chief petty officer in the Navy and lives with his family in Kandivali East.
The police said that on Wednesday, a cartoon showing Thackeray prostrating before pictures of Pawar and Gandhi was posted on a WhatsApp group of which Sharma is a member. Sharma forwarded the cartoon to a WhatsApp group comprising residents of his housing society.
Sharma’s daughter, Dr Sheela Sharma, said that none of the other members of the housing society responded to her father’s message. She claimed, however, that one of the recipients informed Kadam.
A few minutes past 10 am on Friday, Sharma received a phone call from a man who asked him his name and address. Half an hour later, a man identifying himself as Kadam called Sharma and asked him why he had posted the cartoon. “I explained that I had only forwarded the cartoon from one WhatsApp group to another,” Sharma said in his statement to the police.
Around 12 pm, an unidentified man called the intercom in Sharma’s home and asked him to come down to the society’s main entrance to talk. Sharma told the police that he was met by eight to 10 men, who asked him why he had posted the cartoon on WhatsApp. “I told them once again that I had only forwarded the message. But they did not listen and hit me with their hands and legs,” he told the police. Sharma suffered injuries to both eyes.
CCTV footage posted on Twitter by BJP’s Kandivali East MLA, Atul Bhatkhalkar, shows a group of men chasing after Sharma and dragging him outside the society premises by his shirt collar. The footage shows the men slapping Sharma and pulling at his shirt even as the society’s security guards watch on without intervening.
Sharma told the police that he managed to escape the men and run home after a few minutes.
On Friday evening, Sharma got an FIR lodged at Samta Nagar police station against Kadam and eight to 10 other unidentified men. Kadam and his colleagues were booked for voluntarily causing grievous hurt, forming and unlawful assembly and rioting under the Indian Penal Code, said Dilip Sawant, Additional Commissioner of Police (North region).
Sharma’s daughter said her father’s eyes had become red after the attack. “He complained of a headache so we took him to get a CT Scan,” she said.
Former CM and BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis called the attack “extremely sad and shocking” and demanded that Thackeray take strong action.
Bhatkhalkar tweeted that the attack on a retired Navy official was demonstrative of Sena’s mentality. “The CM is sitting at home and running a dictatorship,” he added.
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