The Statesman's editor, publisher arrested for hurting Muslim feelings, out on bail

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Kolkata/London, Feb.12 (ANI): The editor and publisher of the Kolkata-based daily The Statesman were arrested on Wednesday for "hurting the religious feelings" of Muslims after they had reprinted an article from The Independent.

Ravindra Kumar, the editor of the paper, and Anand Sinha, the printer and publisher of the paper, were arrested on a complaint by a resident of Eliot Lane, Kolkata, and charged under Sections 295A (deliberate act with malicious intent to outrage religious feelings) and Section 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.

They were produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate S. S. Anand, who granted them bail.

The arrests were in connection with the publication of an article by Johann Hari of The Independent of London by The Statesman in its issue of February 5.

Upon learning that Kolkata Police had registered a case, The Statesman contacted senior officers and offered to assist its investigation, and to aid efforts to defuse tensions in the city.

The city had been rocked by protests and violence over the paper's remarks since February 7. The protesters had demanded the immediate arrest of Kumar. Sections of central Kolkata have been paralyzed by protests for much of the past week.

Hari's report Titled "Why should I respect oppressive religions?" was originally printed in The Independent on January 28. In it, Hari said he believed the right to criticize any religion was being eroded around the world.

The Statesman, a highly respected liberal English-language daily, reprinted the article, causing a major backlash among a small group of Muslims who felt that the piece slighted Prophet Mohamed and insulted their religion.

Peaceful protests turned violent, as angry crowds began blocking roads, attacking police and calling for the arrest of the article's author and the newspaper's publisher and editor.

On Monday and Tuesday police used baton charges to try to disperse crowds and more than 70 protesters were arrested. Staff members of The Statesman were forced to barricade the front entrance to their building and were escorted into their offices through a side door by police.

The office is opposite the Tipu Sultan Masjid, Kolkata's largest mosque.

Hari has defended his article.

"I wrote in defence of the right to criticize religion - all religion - and it is vitally important to keep that right alive in the world's largest, and in many ways most admirable, democracy," he said.

On two separate occasions, Kumar issued statements standing by his decision to publish the article. But he also said he had not meant to cause offence to any religion. (ANI)

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