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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 March, 2004, 22:57 GMT
India seeks to arrest US scholar
Professor James Laine
Professor Laine says he is a victim of political point scoring
Indian officials have decided to seek the arrest of an American scholar who has written a controversial biography of a historic national figure.

James Laine, who teaches religious studies at a US university, has written a book on Shivaji, a 17th Century warrior venerated in western India.

The government of the western state of Maharashtra said it would seek the assistance of Interpol to arrest him.

It says the book smears Shivaji's image, and is insulting to India.

'Slanderous remarks'

Maharashtra Home Minister RR Patil said that a "criminal offence has been registered against" Professor Laine, who teaches religious studies at Macalester College in Minnesota.

The AFP news agency quoted Mr Patil as saying the book contained allegedly slanderous remarks against Shivaji and his mother.

It is obvious that the politicians who are behind this are doing it to make political capital
Professor James Laine

Maharashtra has banned Professor Laine's book Shivaji: The Hindu king in Islamic India, which was published last year.

The ban imposed in 2003 was supported by Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee, who said that it should be extended nationwide.

"We not only condemn it, but also warn the foreign author not to play with our national pride," Mr Vajpayee told an election campaign rally in Maharashtra on Saturday.

Speaking from Minnesota, Professor Laine said that the case had been brought against him because of the forthcoming general elections.

"It is obvious that the politicians who are behind this are doing it to make political capital - especially when a different court earlier threw out the case against me," he told BBC News Online.

In January, members of a little-known hardline Hindu organisation vandalised a research institute in the western city of Pune, alleging that it had assisted Professor Laine for his book on Shivaji.

The state government's decision to seek his arrest follows demands by some state politicians to ban a book written 60 years ago by the country's first premier, Jawaharlal Nehru.

Local BJP leaders say Nehru's book Discovery of India also demeans Shivaji.




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