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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 May, 2005, 12:57 GMT 13:57 UK
Sikhs angry at new Bollywood film
By Asit Jolly
BBC News, Chandigarh

Sikhs at the Golden Temple
Sikhs say the film denigrates their religion
Groups of Sikhs in the north Indian state of Punjab have staged protests against the exhibition of a new Bollywood film.

They say the film Jo Bole So Nihaal (which is a Sikh battle cry) denigrates their religion.

Protesters shouted slogans and stoned cinema halls in several towns across the state.

Police have arrested several people and charged them with rioting and disturbing the peace.

In Jalandhar, protesters clashed with police outside a cinema hall showing the film.

Some of the protesters were injured.

In the Sikh holy city of Amritsar, dozens of policemen in full riot gear were deployed to protect the local Rialto cinema house.

Many Sikh religious and political groups are opposing the new film which they say "inappropriately employs religious symbols including the Sikh battle cry: 'bole so nihaal', which has been wrongly used for the name of the film".

But the makers of the film, who are Sikhs themselves, insist that it does not offend Sikh sentiments in any way.

One of the producers, Ponty Chadha, says that people have begun reacting even before seeing the film.

Bollywood director Rahul Rawail said the film had been cleared by a special committee chaired by the head priest of Sikhism's highest religious and temporal authority - the Akal Takht.

But groups opposing the film have questioned the clearance given to the film by the Akal Takth, Joginder Singh Vedanti.

In a related development, the secretary of the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee - a powerful Sikh committee that administers all historic Sikh shrines and institutions in north India - has written to the Indian Censor Board, which has certified the film.

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