Cinema bombings unnerve India's capital

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The Independent Online

Indian police were yesterday hunting for those behind two bombings at cinemas in Delhi on Sunday night that left one person dead and at least 49 wounded. One man was injured in a new explosion yesterday, after he found an abandoned handbag in which a bomb had been hidden.

Indian police were yesterday hunting for those behind two bombings at cinemas in Delhi on Sunday night that left one person dead and at least 49 wounded. One man was injured in a new explosion yesterday, after he found an abandoned handbag in which a bomb had been hidden.

The Indian capital was on high alert, with police checkpoints set up on many roads, and heightened security at the airport. Officially, police are saying they have no leads as to who was behind Sunday night's attacks. But initial suspicions have fallen on Sikh extremists, because both cinemas were attacked in the middle of showings of a film that has been accused by Sikh leaders of insulting their religion.

They object to the title of the film, Jp Bole So Nihal, which uses the traditional Sikh battle cry which should only be uttered on the battlefield or in a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship. They also say scenes in which a Sikh is pursued by scantily clad women while Sikh religious scriptures are intoned in the background is insulting to Sikhs.

Cinemas in Delhi and Bombay were cancelling showings of the film yesterday for fear of further attacks. It had already been withdrawn in Punjab, the state that is hoem ot most of India's Sikhs.

Police officers said they believed yesterday's bomb explosion was not connected to Sunday nights attacks. But that would make it highly coincidental: bombings are not common in Delhi. A man received minor injuries after he found a handbag lying in the road near the railway lines in east Delhi and opened it. Explosives were hidden inside.

The possibility of a fresh wave of bombings by Sikh extremists has unnerved Delhi. During the 1980s, the Indian capital was plagued by a series of bomb attacks carried out by Sikh separatists, who wanted to set up their own country, Khalistan, in India's Punjab state.

That wave of violence culminated in 1984. First came Operation Bluestar, in which the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi sent Indian troops to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhism's holiest shrine, and root out militants sheltering there. Many were killed and the temple was badly damaged. Four months later Ms Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards. That set off a savage wave of revenge killings across Delhi in which thousands of innocent Sikhs died.

Nobody fears things could get that out of hand this time. The Sikh separatist movement has all but died out. Today, India has it first Sikh Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh. Sikh leaders yesterday condemnded Sunday's bombings. "No Sikh believes in violence as Sikhs are god-fearing and a peace-loving community," said Bibi Jagir Kaur, head of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, Sikhism's highest authority. The committee claimed the bombings had been carried out in order to defame the image of Sikhs.

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