December 7, 2005

Air ban on Indian holy man’s staff sparks violence

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian police have used canes to beat
back hundreds of angry followers of a Hindu seer when they took
to the streets of two cities after the guru was barred from
carrying his staff on board a commercial flight.

Police used canes, or lathis, to break up a protest outside
Mumbai airport on Tuesday night and again at the airport in the
nearby city of Aurangabad on Wednesday, an official said.

At least 30 people, including reporters and other
passengers, were hurt in the Mumbai incident, local media
reported. TV showed some people with thick red welts on their
backs after being hit.

Narendra Maharaj, a little-known holy man was barred from
taking his staff on a flight from Lucknow to Mumbai on Tuesday
because of security rules, an officer of the Central Industrial
Security Force, which is charged with protecting airports,

"When he arrived in Mumbai, the officials tried to pacify
him and requested him to talk to his supporters but he
refused," he said. About 500 of the guru's supporters

"The unruly mob refused to let passengers in or out of the
building. The security personnel tried to pacify them but they
didn't listen."

The seer, clad in saffron robes, was shown on television
demanding the sacking of the policemen who caned his

On Wednesday, a similar mob rallied at the Aurangabad
airport, near Mumbai, believed to be his base. By early
afternoon, another crowd had begun gathering at Mumbai airport.