Blasts at Delhi cinemas kill one after Sikh film protests

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The Independent Online

At least one person was killed and dozens were injured when bombs exploded at two cinemas in Delhi that were showing a controversial new film which has been condemned by Sikh leaders as insulting to their religion.

At least one person was killed and dozens were injured when bombs exploded at two cinemas in Delhi that were showing a controversial new film which has been condemned by Sikh leaders as insulting to their religion.

Indian authorities were closing all cinemas across the city last night for fear of further attacks.

The two cinemas were cordoned off by police. Both are in the Karol Bagh shopping district of west Delhi, a popular area for cinema-goers.

The first device exploded at the Liberty Cinema at 8.30pm local time (4pm BST). The bomb had been planted under a seat in the front rows of the auditorium and at least 43 people were hurt, one of whom later died, police said.

Fifteen minutes later, a second bomb went off at the nearby Satyam cinema, where it had been hidden inside a lavatory. At least seven people were injured.

At the time of the explosions, both cinemas were showing Jo Bole So Nihal, a film that has been vilified by Sikh religious leaders, and banned in much of north India after protests. Police refused to comment on whether the explosions may have been linked to Sikh extremist groups.

Sikh leaders say the film abuses their religious symbols, including the traditional Sikh battle cry, "Bole so nihal", which they say can only be uttered on the battlefield or in a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship.

Scenes in which a Sikh character is chased by scantily clad women have also come in for criticism.

Police in Punjab have fought off protesters outside a cinema in Jalandhar, and riot police had to protect cinemas in the Sikh holy city of Amritsar. But Delhi, with its more cosmopolitan outlook, has been immune from such protests in the past, and the city authorities chose not to ban the film.

Another possible cause for the attacks being suggested last night was that it was exactly one year since the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, took office. Coincidentally, Mr Singh is India's first Sikh Prime Minister.

Cinemas are frequently targeted by religious groups in India. Last year Hindu extremists attacked cinemas showing a film of a lesbian relationship between Indian women.

Yesterday's attacks came at a time when Delhi's cinemas have been packed. Like much of the rest of the world, the city is consumed with Star Wars fever over the release of the last in Steven Spielberg's saga.

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