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Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Tuesday, 14 February 2006

'Rupee magic' row erupts in India

By Omer Farooq
BBC News, Hyderabad

Indian rupee notes
Burning a currency note is an offence in India

A magic trick by an Indian politician involving the perceived burning of a banknote has sparked controversy.

K Keshav Rao of the Congress party performed the trick with a 100-rupee note at a gathering of magicians in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh.

The state's opposition Telugu Desam party demanded his arrest, as burning banknotes is an offence in India.

Mr Rao dismissed the claim, saying it was a trick and it was not the banknote that had been burned.

Legal action plea

The incident occurred during a gathering of a large number of magicians in which Mr Rao, the Congress party president in the state, was the chief guest.

Springing a surprise on everybody, he declared that he also knew magic and would demonstrate his skills.

He took out the 100-rupee note and signed it. Then he handed the note to the state's commissioner, Ramanna Chary, asking him to burn it.

After it was burned, Mr Rao recovered the "same signed note" from the pocket of one of the magicians. The act was cheered by spectators.

Telugu Desam leader MV Mysoora Reddy demanded Mr Rao be arrested.

Mr Reddy said legal action should be taken against Mr Rao as it was a crime punishable by five years' imprisonment.

Mr Rao said the paper that was burned was not a banknote.

Mr Chary also denied the banknote was burned. He told the BBC it was like demanding a murder charge for the magician's trick of cutting a person in two and then producing them alive.

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