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Thursday, December 3, 1998 Published at 16:39 GMT

World: South Asia

Hindu militants stage lesbian film attacks

The media were told of the protest in advance

Hindu extremists in India have continued their attacks on cinemas showing a controversial film centred on a lesbian relationship.

The BBC's Daniel Lak: Attack put on for reporters
The Shiv Sena organisation - which is allied to the governing Hindu nationalist BJP - tipped-off the media before about a dozen of its members rampaged through the lobby of a Delhi cinema on Tuesday.

[ image: Posters were ripped down]
Posters were ripped down
Windows and mirrors were smashed as protestors outside shouted slogans and tore down posters for the film, Fire.

A restaurant was also damaged, but nobody was hurt and the vandals did not get into the auditorium, where the internationally-acclaimed movie was showing to a full house.

Film 'attacks Hindu culture'

The day before two cinemas in Bombay had suffered similar attacks.

Shiv Sena says the film is anti-Hindu because of a scene showing the two main female characters having sex.

The group's president, Jaibhagwan Goyal, said: "This scene is a direct attack on our Hindu culture and civilisation.

[ image: The film's lesbian theme has outraged some]
The film's lesbian theme has outraged some
"We do all these things according to our social system - where it is done between a man and a woman after marriage - but the film is trying to show something that deviates from this line and it will send a wrong message to the society."

Fire tells the story of two sisters-in-law trapped in loveless marriages who develop an emotional - and eventually physical relationship.

The film had already been showing in India for three weeks before the wave of violent protests began.

'Cultural terrorism'

Police in Delhi say they have begun making arrests and that they will prevent further attacks.

But some cinema owners are not taking any chances and have stopped showing the film for fear of further trouble.

[ image: Deepa Mehta: Film not made to shock]
Deepa Mehta: Film not made to shock
Film-makers in Bombay, India's cinema capital, have condemned what they called "cultural terrorism" and called for protection from the authorities.

The movie's Canadian-based director Deepa Mehta, has defended the public's right to see her work without fear of intimidation.

"Fire has gone through the Indian censors without one cut," she said.

"So, you know, I think that let's not under-estimate the Indian audience. I didn't make the film to shock people. I made the film because I wanted to make the film."

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