Hours after a statue of former chief minister Mayawati was decapitated at the Ambedkar Memorial in Gomti Nagar area of Lucknow on Thursday afternoon,the Akhilesh Yadav government began work on replacing it with a similar statue.
A team of officials led by Lucknow District Magistrate Anurag Yadav reached the site with another Mayawati statue at 9 pm,less than an hour after BSP leaders including party general secretary Naseemuddin Siddiqui staged a protest outside the assembly.
The new statue,which is of the same size,was found on the premises of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. It was originally supposed to be installed at the Kanshi Ram Green (Eco) Garden.
Mayawatis statue was decapitated by four youths shortly after 1 pm,minutes after a little-known organisation called the Uttar Pradesh Navnirman Sena threatened to demolish all her statues if they were not removed by the state government within 72 hours.
Addressing a press conference,the organisations president,Amit Jani,who claimed to be a Samajwadi Party member,alleged that fake cases were lodged against innocent people under the SC,ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act during the Mayawati regime.
Armed with hammers,the four youths broke the head and other parts of the statue. Jamuna Prasad,a guard at the memorial,said he saw two youths in red caps fleeing the spot after damaging the statue. They rode away on two motorcycles.
The police found two bags,a hammer and some handbills of the Uttar Pradesh Nav Nirman Sena at the spot. The handbill said the SP had promised to destroy Mayawatis statues but was not doing so.
The incident sparked tension in the state as BSP leaders accused the SP government of collusion and held demonstrations even as Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav condemned the vandalism,describing it as a planned attempt to disturb the peaceful atmosphere in the state.
Leader of Opposition Swami Prasad Maurya,who joined the protests,demanded that the statue be restored immediately,warning that crores of Dalits may take law and order in their hands. He said that following Mayawatis instructions,he had asked his party cadres to show restraint and wait for the governments response.
The government has invoked Section 144 across the state and ordered district magistrates to restrict movement of people in groups. Principal Secretary (Home) R M Srivastava said security has been stepped up around statues of personalities.
Meanwhile,a freelance journalist,Alok Srivastava,his son Arpit and Vishal Mishra,the owner of a PR firm which had organised Janis press conference,have been detained. Arpit said he had just booked the room in his fathers name after Jani told him that he wanted to hold a press conference.
Lucknow SSP Ashutosh Pandey said they were searching for Jani and his associates.