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04 March 2024

India arrests 1,000 ahead of Bollywood film launch

Police have arrested more than 1,000 right-wing Hindu activists in the Indian city of Mumbai as part of increased security to stop violence over the release of a new Bollywood film.

"Right now, 1,000 plus people have been arrested. Most of them (the arrests) are preventive," senior officer Devan Bharti told AFP on Wednesday.

The arrests come amid a simmering row between top actor-producer Shah Rukh Khan, who stars in the film "My Name Is Khan", and a local hardline Hindu nationalist party, the Shiv Sena.

Shiv Sena leaders have called on Khan to apologise after comments he made regretting the absence of any Pakistan players in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket tournament starting next month.

The party champions the rights of local people from the western Indian state of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is capital, and the local Marathi language.

It is also vocally anti-Muslim and sees itself as a defender of traditional Hindu moral values, often backing up its stance with violence.

Khan, who part-owns IPL outfit the Kolkata Knight Riders, has refused to apologise and defended questions about his patriotism.

Shiv Sena activists on Tuesday broke windows at one cinema in Mumbai during protests and have vowed to disrupt the film's release on Friday.

Police on Tuesday announced that cinema-goers would be frisked and officers deployed to theatres showing the movie.