Police arrest 24 Hindu nationalists who barged onto reality show TV set to protest Pakistanis

By Aijaz Ansari, AP
Tuesday, October 5, 2010

24 Hindu nationalists arrested for TV show protest

MUMBAI, India — Police arrested 24 Hindu nationalists after they barged onto the set of a hit Indian reality television show Tuesday to protest its inclusion of two actors from Pakistan — India’s historic archrival.

The Shiv Sena activists stormed the gates of a bungalow where the “Bigg Boss” show is filmed to pressure producers to remove Pakistani model Veena Malik and actor Ali Saleem, who is known for his TV persona Begum Nawazish Ali.

Lonavala senior police inspector Balraj Lengle said no one was injured, but the 24 activists have been charged with trespassing. Lonavala is a town about 100km (62 miles) from Mumbai.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the protest disrupted filming of the show, which is taped before broadcast.

“Bigg Boss,” hosted by Bollywood superstar Salman Khan, is an Indian version of the popular international reality show “Big Brother.” It features disparate housemates who live together for weeks isolated from outsiders while vying to avoid eviction and win a cash prize.

The Indian version is in its fourth season. A spokesman for Colors TV, which airs the show, declined comment. Colors is owned by Viacom Inc. and India’s Network18 Group.

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray threatened in an editorial Tuesday to disrupt the show’s broadcast if the two actors aren’t dismissed.

“Pakistani television organizers do not treat our people properly. Why should we welcome their contestants?” he wrote in Shiv Sena’s editorial mouthpiece Saamna.

On Monday, the head of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, a Shiv Sena splinter group, asked the state’s top official, Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, to halt taping of the show.

Both groups have a history of using gangs of young men to violently enforce their nationalist agendas.

They have protested the presence of Pakistani artists in India in the past, to mixed effect. Gazal singer Ghulam Ali canceled a trip to India after threats, but Pakistani comedian Shakeel Siddiqui was undeterred.

Earlier this year, Shiv Sena activists tore up posters and stoned movie theaters to block the premiere of “My Name is Khan,” starring Muslim actor Shah Rukh Khan, because he had spoken in support of Pakistani cricketers.

The historic rivalry between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan dates back to the acrimonious and violent partition of the subcontinent on independence from Britain in 1947. The neighboring countries have since fought three wars.

will not be displayed