Lawyer-activist and prominent Team Anna member Prashant Bhushan was assaulted by three youths belonging to a right-wing group in his Supreme Court chamber for his advocacy of plebiscite in Jammu and Kashmir.
The attack on Bhushan came live on the TV screens when Inder Verma (24) and two others barged into into Chamber No 301 of New Lawyers Chamber opposite Supreme Court and attacked him mentioning "Kashmir, Kashmir".
As he was preparing to give an interview to a TV channel, the lawyer was first slapped as his spectacles flew, beaten, kicked and pinned to the ground after being pushed out of the chair.
After reaching his home in neighbouring Noida, Bhus narrated the incident and sought a ban on organisations like Sri Ram Sene which practice "goondaism" of this type in various cities across the country on whatever issues it likes.
He expressed hope that legal proceedings would be initiated against the attackers and appealed to his supporters not to indulge in retribution.
However, Bhushan refused to take questions on his views on Kashmir that provoked the attack.
Earlier immediately after the attack, Bhushan said in his chamber that the youths targeted him for his stand on Jammu and Kashmir.
"They were saying that I have made some comments on Kashmir to which they were taking objection. I have said that a plebiscite should be held in Kashmir," Bhushan said.
He had said in Varanasi last week that there could be a plebiscite in Kashmir. Bhushan claimed this comment angered the group which was behind the attack.
What Prashant Bhushan said on September 26:
One Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga, who supposedly heads an organisation called Bhagat Singh Kranti Sen, claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter and Facebook.
His bio on twitter reads:
At 10:10am, this morning, he tweeted, "God give us power to complete our Mission."
Then at 4:45 pm he tweeted again, saying,
He further wrote,
He expressed similar sentiments on Facebook.
Significantly, the same little-known group was also involved in vandalising the venue where activist Arundhati Roy and Kashmiri separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani delivered a speech last year.
The same group was apparently also present to protest at the India Habitat Centre earlier this year during the launch of her book of essays. Delhi Police had let them out after keeping them in detention for 36 hours.
On Twitter and Facebook, the response was predictable: sane voices condemned the attack, and there were also the usual suspects who seemed to rationalise it, invoking the usual Deewar dialogue (Jao jaake pehle us aadmi ka sign lekar aao...) and how there had been no similar outrage over the attacks on Ms Sheeba Aslam Fehmi, Mr Subrahmanian Swamy or Taslima Nasreen, or how those supporting Maoists or the Hurriyats had no right to complain about violence.
Some of the reactions on Facebook and Twitter:
Clearly, as disturbingly evident in some of the remarks above, there is no unequivocal condemnation for the attack on Mr Bhushan and this latest controversy is bound to create divisions among those hitherto supporting Team Anna, as the views expressed by Mr Bhushan on J&K are not shared by most of the other team members and are also diametrically opposite those of the RSS, BJP and even the Congress.
Almost all the mainstream political parties, equally expectedly, have come out strongly against the violence witnessed today, suggesting that differences of opinion need to be settled by dialogue.
Mr Digvijaya Singh of the Congress party has already accused Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga of being a worker for the BJP's yuva morcha. A Google+ Account does have one Tajinder Pal Singh Bagga (appearing to be the same person as the one with the Twitter and Facebook accounts) that describes him in the About section as "BJP Youth Ex National Executive Member."
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman has dismissed the charge by saying, "The BJP has nothing to do with these people. If the individual claims any association with the Yuva Morcha, the Yuva Morcha will give its clarification."
Earlier, the BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar had said, "BJP condemns any kind of violence against anybody. But the Congress dirty tricks department is capable of doing anything. Only a thorough inquiry will reveal the truth behind the incident."
In a week when the Congress has been on the offensive -- insisting that it is for a strong Lokpal as a constitutional body, Mr Digvijay Singh is brandishing letters from the RSS showing support to the Anna agitation etc -- today's shocking incident is bound to raise more questions than answers on how the anti-corruption movement is taken forward.