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Curfew in Punjab town, anti-Christ poster makers held

Batala, Feb 21 (IANS) The Punjab government Sunday claimed to have arrested the culprits behind the publication of a poster depicting Jesus Christ in an objectionable manner, which sparked violence in this town Saturday, forcing police to enforce a curfew.

In the wake of prevailing tension in the area, the curfew continued for the second day here Sunday, police said.

‘Culprits behind the blasphemous act of showing disrespect to the image of Lord Jesus have been arrested by the special team of Punjab police,’ said state Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, who is also the home minister of Punjab.

He added: ‘We appeal to the people of Punjab to maintain peace and harmony in the state. A special security group is interrogating the culprits and they would investigate their motive behind this act.’

Police had also sealed the printing press in Jalandhar, where the controversial poster was printed.

Confirming the arrests, Jalandhar Police Commissioner Gaurav Yadav told IANS Sunday: ‘We have sealed the printing press where the objectionable material was printed a few days back. Police have also arrested people who are responsible for this printing.’

Police sources said that the main accused is Pritpal Singh and police are interrogating him and trying to establish his links in other states of the country.

However, senior police officials said the overall situation was under control.

‘We have not lifted the curfew so far because we do not want to take any chances. Overall situation is under our control but there are places where the condition is still tense,’ said Inspector General of Police (Border Range) Batala Preet Singh Sahota.

He added: ‘Over 2,000 cops are deployed to keep a vigil against anti-social elements in this town. Police teams are patrolling the area regularly and we have made all arrangements for the safety of the common man.’

Curfew was imposed Saturday after tension prevailed following the publication of the objectionable poster, which depicted Jesus Christ holding a beer can in one hand and what appeared to be either a cigarette or a chicken leg in the other.

Clashes broke out in the town Saturday as some members of the Christian community forced shopkeepers to down shutters.

Police sources said nearly a dozen people, including a journalist of a Punjabi daily, were rounded up Sunday as they had violated the regulations of the curfew.

There were reports that some members of the Christian community again forced the shopkeepers in Tiber village to down shutters, but the situation was brought under control after the intervention of the police.

Batala, 40 km from Amritsar, has a sizeable Christian population and several leading schools and other institutions are run by the community for the past several decades.

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