Mumbai. Offices of the Marathi newspaper Lokmat witnessed angry protests on Sunday by outraged Muslims who claimed that the newspaper had insulted their faith by publishing a blasphemous picture.
Copies of the newspaper were burnt at various cities in Maharashtra and the protesting men demanded arrest of the editor and the artist who drew the illustration. A couple of offices are reported to have been attacked too, as the editor extended an immediate apology.
According to reports, such protests were held at various cities such as Malegaon, Dhule, Nandurbar, etc. in Maharashtra and a campaign – in various cities as well as on the social media – is on to boycott the newspaper.
To keep the situation in control, the police has registered cases against the editor and the writer of the article at Aurangabad, Jalna, Pune, Jalgaon, Parbhani and Yavatmal.
The Muslim groups were angry after they found an article published in the Sunday edition of the newspaper. The article explained how the ISIS – the terror group currently ruling parts of Syria and Iraq, and which claimed responsibility for the recent Paris attacks – was receiving money to fund their operations.
The article also carried an illustration that showed symbols of various national currencies – representing international sources of funding – falling into a piggy bank, which was painted like the ISIS flag i.e. black in color with the terror group’s seal depicted in Arabic script.
Since the piggy bank is supposed to look like a pig, and pig is considered a haraam animal in Islam, the Muslim groups claimed that the illustration was blasphemous, for the ISIS seal has elements of the Islamic shahada.
Piggy bank has been historically used as a popular depiction to show banking and financial activities and it has hardly got anything to do with the actual pig or its ways, however such artistic explanations fell on deaf ears as hundreds of protestors turned up at various offices to burn copies of the newspaper, sending the staff into panic mode.
Political parties also joined in with Dhule unit chief of Samajwadi Party Minority Cell taking the lead and asking Lokmat’s resident editor Milind Kulkarni to publish an apology in the newspaper’s earliest issue. Another organization called All India Momin Conference has called for protests against the newspaper after Friday prayers in in Jalna on December 4.
Ironically, the Malegaon Additional Superintendent of Police (ASP) has praised the “peaceful” protests, and expressed concern over the publication of the “blasphemous” caricature. He said that a notice would be sent to the newspaper as early as possible.
UPDATE: Following these protests and the police cases, the newspaper Lokmat has published an apology and published it on the front page in their Monday editions.
The apology expresses heartfelt regret to the offended groups. It even claims that “action has been taken” against the responsible persons. It doesn’t clarify what action has been taken i.e. if the writer or the artist were removed from the job or awarded some other form of punishment.
It is also not known if the offended groups have decided to withdraw their FIRs and call off their scheduled protests after this apology.