Curfew partially relaxed in Punjab town after Christ row

Batala (Punjab), Feb 22 (IANS) Curfew was partially relaxed in this Punjab town Monday after violence broke out Saturday over the publication of a poster depicting Jesus Christ in an objectionable manner, police said.

‘Curfew has been relaxed till noon so that people can come out and do some necessary shopping or other work. However, we are keeping a strict vigil on any anti-social elements. All educational institutions are closed,’ Senior Superintendent of Police (Batala) Dinesh Partap Singh told IANS.

‘The situation is under our control and no fresh incidents of violence have been reported since yesterday (Sunday). Police are continuously patrolling the area and we have increased deployment of cops at various sensitive locations,’ he said.

A poster that showed Jesus Christ holding a beer can in one hand and what appeared to be a cigarette or a chicken leg in the other sparked violent protests by Christians, who forced shopkeepers to down shutters. Following this, indefinite curfew was imposed Saturday in Batala, 40 km from Amritsar.

Punjab assembly speaker Nirmal Singh Kahlon visited Batala amid tight security Sunday and assured the victims of full government help.

‘Government will provide compensation to all those people who have lost their property and belongings in Saturday’s clashes. We appeal to all to maintain peace and harmony and we will not spare the guilty behind this violence,’ Kahlon said.

Police have arrested two people and sealed the printing press in Jalandhar where the controversial poster was printed.

While Pritpal Singh, who had ordered the publishing of the poster, was arrested, Raj Kumar Bawa, the publisher, surrendered.

Batala has a sizeable Christian population and several leading schools and other institutions are run by the community.

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