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Pair held for 'offending Islam'

By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Muslims protest in Calcutta against cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2006
Calcutta Muslims in a 2006 protest against Prophet Muhammad cartoons

The editor and publisher of a top English-language Indian daily have been arrested on charges of "hurting the religious feelings" of Muslims.

The Statesman's editor Ravindra Kumar and publisher Anand Sinha were detained in Calcutta after complaints.

Muslims said they were upset with the Statesman for reproducing an article from the UK's Independent daily in its 5 February edition.

The article was entitled: "Why should I respect these oppressive religions?"

It concerns the erosion of the right to criticise all religions.

In it, the author, Johann Hari, writes: "I don't respect the idea that we should follow a 'Prophet' who at the age of 53 had sex with a nine-year old girl, and ordered the murder of whole villages of Jews because they wouldn't follow him."

Mr Kumar and Mr Sinha appeared in court on Wednesday and were granted bail.

Apology

Angry Muslims have been demonstrating in front of the offices of the Statesman since its republication of the article.

Police have broken up the demonstrations using baton charges several times this week.

Some Muslims close to the Jamiat-e-Ulema e Hind (The Organisation of Indian Scholars, a leading Islamic group in India) later filed a complaint with police alleging that the publication had "outraged their religious feelings", which is an offence under Section 295 A of the Indian Penal Code.

Mr Kumar has already issued a public apology for reproducing the article.

"Not anticipating the reaction to the story was an error of judgement and we have regretted that," Mr Kumar told the BBC in an interview.

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