Hard-Line Hindus Beat Indian TV News Workers With Bats, Ransack Office

Members of a Hindu hard-line political party on Friday ransacked the offices of an Indian television news channel in the western Indian city of Mumbai, using iron rods and baseball bats to beat employees and smash furniture.

The office of IBN Lokmat, a television channel that broadcasts in the local Marathi language, was targeted by supporters of the Hindu nationalist Shiv Sena political party for being "too critical" of their leader, Bal Thackeray, according to a party press statement.

Sandeep Chavan, a journalist with IBN Lokmat, said the attackers were looking for Nikhil Wagle, the editor-in-chief of the channel, according to the English-language Web site of CNN-IBN, a IBN Lokmat affiliate.

Television footage showed more than a dozen men in a melee among broken glass and smashed up furniture. Several of them were clearly injured.

Hitesh Kumar, a senior local police official, told reporters that police arrested seven men and after watching closed circuit television footage of the attack, they were looking to arrest at least 15 others. He had no details about injuries.

Such incidents, most often perpetrated by the Shiv Sena and its breakaway faction and rival the Maharashtra Reconstruction Party, have become increasingly common in Mumbai and the state of Maharashtra in which it is located.

Both parties are led by xenophobic, rabble-rousing leaders and aggressively champion the Marathi language and the rights of residents of Maharashtra state.

The party statement added that the attack was not planned but took place because Thackeray "is an honorable leader of this nation and the Marathi people and Shiv Sena supporters are devoted him and are angered by such criticism of him."

Earlier this month members of the Maharashtra Reconstruction Party, known by its Marathi acronym MNS, beat up a state legislator for taking his oath of office in the national language Hindi instead of Marathi.

Members of both parties have routinely attacked migrant workers in Mumbai, most of them poor taxi drivers, blaming them for taking jobs away from local residents.

"This practice, particularly by the Shiv Sena and the MNS has actually taken root now as part of a political strategy and this must stop," Kumar Ketakar, a senior local journalist, told CNN-IBN news channel.