A spree of vandalism at Andhra Pradesh’s temples has sparked a political row in the state, with the BJP and TDP attacking the ruling YSRCP over the issue. However, the police maintain that the attacks are isolated incidents.
DGP D Goutam Sawang said, “In one incident (of vandalism) in Kurnool, the accused revealed that he desecrated the idol and stole the private parts of the deity because he was made to believe that this could lead to his wife conceiving a child. Various other attacks were executed by gangs who were hunting for treasure supposedly hidden under the idols. Therefore, all these incidents have different motives and are completely unrelated. All these are standalone incidents but an effort was made to give it a spin as if temples were under attack.”
The political attacks on the state government began on September 6, when the wooden chariot at the Antarvedi temple in East Godavari district was gutted in a fire.
Officials said that in the 19 incidents of vandalism reported since, arrests have been made in 12 cases. Investigation revealed that in a temple in Srikakulam, the arm of an idol fell off after it was exposed to heavy rains. “It was not desecrated as was claimed earlier,” an official said.
In another incident, the accused told police that he took home an idol hoping that it would bring him good fortune. “We are confident that we will be able crack all the cases in due course including the Antarvedi temple chariot fire. All these are standalone incidents, each one has a different motive,” DGP Sawang said.
Security around major temples in all 13 districts in the state has been enhanced. “We have mapped a total of 47,593 places of worship, out of which there are 28,567 temples. Only 10 per cent of the structures were equipped with CCTV cameras. We have issued notices to all the authorities of the respective temples to take necessary steps to ensure safety, like installing CCTVs, boosting the lighting around the structure etc. A comprehensive security audit of all these structures has been completed. The department itself has installed CCTVs at over 880 locations. The police have “bound over” 8,204 people who have committed similar offences in the past six years.
The DGP appealed to people to not get carried away by rumours. “If any citizen has any concern or information, I request them to approach the police,” he said.
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