First the facts of the case. Senior journalist Siddharth Varadarajan today posted the following on his Twitter and Facebook account:
Four thugs recently beat up the caretaker of my flat in Delhi. The incident took place near our home, with the thugs saying, 'Tell your sahib to watch what he says on TV.' They also issued a threat to my wife, Prof Nandini Sundar, about her Chhattisgarh case. We don't know who they are, but it's clearly aimed to intimidate. The caretaker is recovering. While the police have been helpful and are reviewing neighborhood CCTV footage, I am making this incident public on the advice of friends who believe it may serve some deterrent value.
What exactly these goons had taken offence to remained unclear, since he's virtually on TV everyday. Varadarajan lives near Jorbagh, in the heart of the capital, barely 2 KMs away from the Prime Minister's residence. Neither Varadarajan, nor his wife were home when the thugs visited.
The incident took place on February 23, near the Varadarajan home, where the caretaker was approached by four thugs who enquired about Varadarajan and his wife. "After confirming his identity, they punched both sides of his face and kicked him," Vardarajan said, but added that the caretaker is fine now, recovering from the shock.
"I racked my brain at the time but couldn't think of any issue that would have provoked this kind of goondaism. But then we are not exactly dealing with rational, civilised people here," he said in response to Outlook's query.
On being asked whether he had ever received any threats before, Varadarajan said that his wife, Nandini Sundar, "has often been harassed on the ground in Chhattisgarh by Salwa Judum types but nothing has ever happened to me before."
Sundar is a professor of sociology with the University of Delhi and has been fighting for the rights of tribals in Chhatisgarh and was one of the original petitioners against the illegal militia Salwa Judum set up by the Chhattisgarh government on the basis of which it was eventually declared unconstitutional and banned by the Supreme Court in 2011.
"The police in Chhatisgarh has often tried to link her to the Maoists through innuendo and disinformation. Once when they did this, I personally complained to the Chief Minister, after which the campaign eased off a bit. But again there is an effort by some in the Chhatisgarh police to discredit her ongoing PIL by claiming she is acting in behalf of Maoists etc," Varadarajan said.
But he added that the police response in Delhi has been exemplary. "We don't know who to suspect quite frankly because there are no leads. But my flat's caretaker said they were 'political type' people," he said.
While Varadarajan refused to speculate on who these goons may have been, the immediate conclusion on Twitter, Facebook and initial reports about the incident connected it with his being a "Modi critic".
Varadarajan was the first non-dynastic professional Editor of The Hindu newspaper, for nearly two years, until he resigned in October last year. The new editor-in-chief, at that time, had criticised Varadarajan for not giving adequate page one coverage to the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's rallies.
Varadarajan is also the editor of Gujarat: The Making of a Tragedy and recently reviewed Manoj Mitta's The Fiction of Fact Finding: Modi & Godhra for Outlook.