Bollywood film sparks militant Hindu rage in India

Fri Feb 12, 2010 7:26am EST
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By Rina Chandran

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Theatres in Mumbai turned fortresses on Friday for release of a Bollywood film whose star is locked in a duel with a radical Hindu group, sparking worries India's financial hub is being undermined by parochial politics.

Most cinemas began showing 'My Name is Khan' by afternoon after initial reluctance for fear of attacks by the hard-line Shiv Sena party.

"This is a slap in the face of the Sena," said a woman exiting a Mumbai multiplex, giving the thumbs-up sign.

The controversy was sparked by the film's hero Shah Rukh Khan's recent criticism that no Pakistani cricketers had been picked for the Indian Premier League.

Thousands of police in riot gear were deployed to protect cinemas with plainclothesmen also inside the halls. Police detained 2,000 Shiv Sena members as a precaution, and beat back protesters outside some theatres.

Protests also spread to some other Indian cities.

Analysts and politicians have warned the Sena's tactics may hurt Mumbai's image as a cosmopolitan city and its efforts to model itself as an international financial center like Dubai or Singapore. Mumbai is also home to the Bollywood film industry.

Shiv Sena, which runs the Mumbai municipality, draws political sustenance from hard-line Hinduism and an ultra-nationalism that includes strident opposition to Pakistan.   Continued...