A LARGE team of district police, Rapid Action Force and AP Special Police personnel remained stationed outside an ashram of a self-styled religious guru in Andhra Pradesh’s Anantapur district on Monday, ready to storm inside and take custody of devotees who had clashed with local villagers.
One local resident injured in the clashes, which took place during a Ganesh immersion procession on Saturday night, succumbed on Monday, leading to a tense situation through the day.
Police and district collectorate officials negotiated with the ashram authorities to hand over those involved – if they failed to hand over the accused, the ashram would be raided, officials said.
Violence broke out in Chinna Polamada village of the district’s Tadipatri mandal when villagers from Chinna Polamada and Pedda Polamada took out a Ganesh procession on Saturday. As the procession crossed the ashram of Swami Prabhodananda, Anantapur’s SP G V Ashok Kumar said, ashram inmates objected to villagers throwing colours and flowers at them.
“It resulted in arguments. Within minutes, large-scale rioting broke out and ashram inmates indulged in arson – nearly 30 vehicles were set on fire and a granite stone factory (was) destroyed. One person who was injured in the incident died (later),” an official said. The SP said, “Ashram inmates attacked villagers with iron rods, and even crude bombs were thrown. We are trying to defuse the situation.”
Following Saturday’s clashes, villagers put up a tent outside the ashram and sat on protest, demanding police evacuation of the ashram. Despite police presence, the two sides clashed again and ashram inmates pulled down the tent and drove away the villagers, it was informed.
Anantapur MP J C Diwakar Reddy, who is camping at the site, blamed police inaction for the arson. He has refused to leave the site unless those involved in the violence are arrested.