June 2, 2006

Two more Indian states ban “The Da Vinci Code”

HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - Two more Indian states have
banned cinema screenings of the controversial "The Da Vinci
Code," doubling the number of regions to have passed such
orders after protests by minority Christians.

Authorities in southern Andhra Pradesh state and Meghalaya
in the Christian-dominated northeast blocked the film late on
Thursday. Two other states, Punjab and Tamil Nadu, had earlier
banned the film.

The Andhra Pradesh government said many groups, including
Christian organizations, had opposed the film which had been
scheduled for release on Friday.

"The exhibition of the film is likely to cause breach of
peace and hurt religious sentiments of Muslim and Christian
community which may lead to demonstrations, disturb peace and
tranquility in the state," an official release said.

Authorities in Meghalaya banned the film although there was
no bar on Dan Brown's best-selling novel on which it is based.
The book suggests Jesus married his disciple Mary Magdalene and
had a child with her.

"The movie has been banned as a majority of the population
was against its screening in the state," senior official H.D.R.
Lyngdoh told Reuters by phone from the state capital Shillong
on Friday.

"The NGOs and church leaders had asked for the ban as they
felt it has hurt the religious sentiments," he said.

The Christian-majority northeastern state of Nagaland,
which has no major cinema halls, has stopped sales of the book.

Christians make up just over 2 percent of Hindu-majority
India's one-billion plus population.

(Additional reporting by Biswajyoti Das in Guwahati)