'TDP, BJP Workers Involved in Temple Vandalism Incidents': Andhra Pradesh DGP

Gautam Sawang's statements have triggered angry reactions from the TDP and BJP leadership, who accused the state government of misleading people by leaving behind "real culprits".

New Delhi: In a significant development in Andhra Pradesh political circles, state director general of police (DGP) Gautam Sawang accused cadres of Telugu Desam Party (TDP) and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of being behind the spate of attacks on temples and spreading false news to create enmity between religious groups.

Speaking to the media in Amaravati on Friday, he said the role of TDP and BJP workers has been clearly established in nine cases, involving 15 TDP members and four from the BJP. Thirteen TDP activists, two BJP workers are already arrested, while others are on the run, the DGP said.

In the last few months, Andhra Pradesh has witnessed more than 40 major cases of attacks on Hindu worship places across the state, where attackers destroyed idols and desecrated the holy sites. The opposition, led by the TDP and with BJP in tow, squarely blamed chief minister Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, who is a practising Christian.

Also read: AP: Acts of Vandalism at Temples Pave the Way for Communal Pitch

That the naming of TDP and BJP cadres to be responsible for the attacks on Hindu holy sites just days after the DGP himself had gone on record to claim that the attacks were the handiwork of treasure trove hunters, believers in superstition, and drunkards has naturally triggered angry reactions from both TDP and BJP. In fact, the DGP’s version is also in contrast to a public stand taken by Y. S. Jagan who had already described the attacks as part of a “conspiracy and political guerrilla warfare” against his government to disrupt the welfare agenda, without singling out any political party.

A rally by the BJP in Andhra Pradesh to protest against attacks on Hindu temples. Photo: Twitter/@bjp4AP

However, Sawang in a hurriedly convened news conference on Friday told that there was a deliberate attempt on the part of some political parties to disturb communal harmony in the state.

“The investigation of the cases so far has revealed deliberate attempts and involvement vested interest groups and some political parties who seem to be behind these incidents as well as false propaganda, false publicity in an attempt to disturb the communal harmony that is existing in the state. In nine cases, there is direct and specific involvement of political party members or affiliates,” he was quoted as saying by The News Minute.  

Going into the specifics, he accused two BJP and two TDP members of spreading false news about the desecration of a Vinayaka idol in Bommaru in September 2020. In another case reported from Badvel, a TDP worker has been accused of placing a garland of chappals on an Anjaneya idol allegedly to create confusion over a land issue. Eight people, including four TDP members, have been arrested in connection with the desecration of a Madamma temple in Maddikera of Kurnool district for a treasure. A TDP member has also been arrested for spreading fake news that a Vinayaka idol’s hands were cut off in Golugonda mandal in Visakhapatnam.

While stating that the attacks on temples were part of a “larger design or a game plan”, he said a probe has been launched into ascertaining the role of TDP top brass in the conspiracy.

The DGP informed that so far 180 temple-related crimes have been cracked down and 337 persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement. As many as 4,643 offenders or communal suspects have been bound over so far, the senior police official said.

“I appeal to political parties not to instigate religious animosity. Also, do not spread rumours at will on social media. If you do that, we will not hesitate to take stern action,” PTI quoted Sawang as saying.

Politics heats up  

Within hours after Sawng named TDP and BJP workers to be behind the attacks, leaders from both parties fired salvos at the DGP and described him as an agent of the ruling YSR Congress.

TDP state president K. Atchannaidu. Photo: Twitter/@atchannaiduu

Leading the charge from the opposition camp, the TDP state president tweeted, “You will aptly fit as the spokesman of YSRC rather than the state DGP.”

“Only two days ago you blamed thieves, drunks, insane persons and wild animals for the destruction of temple idols. How come it has suddenly become a political conspiracy,” Atchannaidu quoted as saying by PTI.  

Taking potshots at Sawang, Atchannaidu advised him to shun his khaki uniform and to don YSR Congress scarf. He added that the inefficiency of the DGP had become evident in failing to arrest “real culprits”.

On the other hand, the BJP hit out at the DGP in equally harsh terms with BJP state general secretary S. Vishnuvardhan Reddy accusing the DGP of unveiling a “new political drama”, and described it as an attempt to mislead people and to cover up the inefficiency of the Andhra Pradesh police.

Also read: AP: To Pre-Empt BJP’s Growth, TDP Looks to Secure 20% ‘Hindu Vote Share’

“It is so disgraceful. People of AP lost faith in the police. Are the police working for the people or the YSRC?” Reddy was quoted as saying by PTI.

While accusing the police of “sidetracking the investigation”, the BJP leader said that the DGP had earlier claimed that there was no conspiracy behind temple attacks, but had described it as the work of some miscreants.

A special investigation team (SIT), under the supervision of senior IPS officer G.V.G Ashok Kumar, additional director, Anti-Corruption Bureau, has been constituted by the state government to investigate the attacks on temples in the state. The state government has also roped in the Crime Investigation Department (CID) and Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) to aid SIT in the probe.

(With PTI inputs)