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Hindu fundamentalists ransack TV station in Gujarat

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns an armed attack by about 20 Hindu fundamentalists on the studios of NDTV in Ahmedabad, in the western state of Gujarat, on 19 January 2008. Armed with hockey sticks and iron bars, the members of the little-known group Hindu Samarajya Sena smashed doors, windows, air-conditioning units, phones and studio equipment, plastered the premises with posters accusing the staff of being traitors, and injured two employees who were present at the time and who had to be hospitalised.

The attack was prompted by a poll organised by the TV station in which viewers were invited to send SMS messages saying who they thought should receive India's highest civilian award for national service. A shortlist proposed by the station included M.F. Hussein, a well-known artist who has lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai in recent years because of threats from Hindu fundamentalists over paintings showing divinities half-naked. Extremists even put a price on his head in 2006.

The police said they wanted to arrest Ashok Sharma, the leader of Hindu Samrajya Sena, after he claimed responsibility for the attack and said it was because NDTV had proposed the artist as a possible recipient. The attack has been condemned by a member of the Gujarat government and by leading political parties.

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