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Malerkotla under curfew after church set ablaze
Our Correspondent

The targeted church
The targeted church

Malerkotla, September 13
Curfew was clamped in Malerkotla town today after a local church was set on fire following rumours that a holy book had been burnt in the US. The police has booked five persons and sealed all temples, mosques and the remaining two churches in the town.

A 200-strong mob set ablaze one of the town’s three churches late last night. Trouble erupted after an SMS was flashed from Ludhiana that a Koran had been burnt in Michigan, USA. A meeting of the All India Mili Council was convened at Zakir Masjid after the 9 pm ‘namaz’. After the meeting, hundreds of Muslims started gathering outside St Thomas Church near the Islamia School here, according to the FIR.

Mohammed Usman broke the main gate of the church and the mob carrying stones and bottles filled with petrol entered the church. It broke open the cupboard in which copies of the Bible were kept and set fire to the holy books. After that, the mob torched the church.

US envoy expresses dismay

New Delhi: US Ambassador Timothy J. Roemer said on Monday that he was “dismayed” by reports about violence in Kashmir and Punjab triggered by reports of burning of the Koran in the US and appealed for calm. “The deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act. We strongly support the local authorities’ appeal for calm and an end to the violence,” he said. — TNS

The mob then threw stones at the burning church and at police vehicles. It set on fire a PCR motorcycle and damaged the jeep of SHO Onkar Singh, who had reached the spot by then. SDM Gurloveleen Singh Sidhu and DSP Sukhdev Singh Virk also reached the church. A news journalist was also attacked and beaten up and a news channel’s cameraperson’s camera snatched. The police rounded up some persons, but they were later released.

The situation in the town remained tense throughout the night and Punjab Police rushed reinforcements. DIG Patiala range Jitendra Kumar

Jain reached here today with a large police posse. He told mediapersons at the Rest House here that a probe was on to ascertain the origin of the SMS.

Religious leaders from the Muslim and Christian communities met district administration officials today and appealed to the people to maintain calm. The town has a population of nearly 1.1 lakh, over half of it Muslim. Not even a single incident of communal violence was reported from the formerly princely state during Partition.

Those booked include four Mili Council leaders. Identified as Mohammed Usman, Ajmat Ali Khan, Abdul Rehman, Mohammed Anwar Sadiki and Taheer Kiyami, they have been charged with intending to outrage religious feelings and voluntarily causing hurt to deter public servant from his duty. As many as 150-odd members of the mob were also booked.

Tension was also reported from Bathinda and Jalandhar today with members of Muslim bodies holding protests raising slogans against the US and Pastor Terry Jones. The Florida Pastor had threatened to burn copies of the Quran on the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

Sangrur Deputy Commissioner Harkesh Singh Sidhu said relaxation in curfew would be decided on Tuesday morning after reviewing the situation. (With inputs from agencies)





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