Hindu violence book lands Indian writer in trouble

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - Indian police have arrested a man for writing a book blaming Hindus for deadly anti-Christian violence in the country’s east earlier this year, saying the provocative work could reignite communal tensions.

But rights activists and journalists term the arrest illegal and an attack on free speech. The book has not been banned by the government of Orissa state, where attacks by Hindu crowds since August have left 38 people, mostly Christians, dead.

About 100 protesters wearing black armbands and badges over their mouths held a silent demonstration in capital city Bhubaneswar on Thursday, demanding the release of writer Lenin Kumar who was arrested this week.

Violence broke out after the murder of a local Hindu leader and over the controversial issue of conversions in poor tribal areas of Orissa. It forced tens of thousands of Christians to flee to government relief camps.

Police arrested Lenin Kumar, a Hindu editor of a local literary magazine, whose book blames Hindu groups for some of the worst anti-Christian violence in decades.

Christian leaders at the time accused Hindu nationalist groups of targeting Christians for political gain. Rights groups accused the state government, supported by Hindu nationalists, and police of not doing enough to stem the violence.

Hindu nationalist groups had denied their involvement.

“We arrested him for writing a book which has objectionable contents,” said Himanshu Lal, deputy commissioner of police, saying the book could stoke further violence.

There has been no communal violence in Orissa in the past month but the issue still simmers, with the opposition Congress party demanding the government publish a white paper on what it did to stop the killings.

Two others were also arrested for helping Kumar print and circulate the book. All three are now in jail after their bail pleas were rejected by a local court. Police had confiscated 700 copies of the book.

But the protesters say the police allegations are baseless.

“How can police arrest a writer without banning his book if it has objectionable content?” journalist Prasanta Patnaik said.

The communal violence was sparked in August by the killing of a prominent Hindu proselytiser, which police first blamed on Maoist rebels and later on Christians.

Police say they found evidence that Kumar, a known left-wing sympathizer, has been involved in Maoist activities.

Editing by Matthias Williams and Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Jerry Norton