In a new twist to the attacks on temples in the state, Andhra Pradesh police chief DG Sawang on Friday said over 20 activists of TDP and BJP were among the accused in connection with the incidents and spreading “false propaganda”, prompting the opposition parties to slam him for acting as “a spokesperson” of the ruling YSRC.
Making the claims two days after holding treasure trove hunters, believers in superstition and others responsible for attacks on temples, the Director General of Police said 15 of the workers who indulged in “false propaganda” related to various instances of alleged vandalism in temples have been arrested.
The TDP and BJP blasted the DGP over his latest claims and said Mr Sawang should shun his khaki uniform and instead don the ruling YSR Congress scarf.
“You will aptly fit as the spokesman of YSRC rather than the state DGP,” TDP state president K Atchannaidu said in a tweet.
BJP state general secretary S Vishnuvardhan Reddy termed the DGP’s claims a “new political drama” and a brazen attempt to mislead people, only to cover up police inefficiency.
On January 13, Sawang told a press conference that most of the offences (like desecration of idols in temples) were committed by treasure trove hunters, believers in superstition, drunkards and others.
He neither spoke of any conspiracy nor political guerrilla warfare behind the 44 major cases of attacks on temples in recent months.
The DGPs line was in a complete contrast to the stand taken by the ruling brass, including Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy, who had hit out at the opposition saying the attacks on temples were part of a “conspiracy and political guerrilla warfare” against his government to disrupt the welfare agenda.
On Friday, the DGP hurriedly convened another press conference and listed out nine cases in which a total of 15 people, allegedly workers and sympathisers of TDP and BJP, were arrested for carrying out false propaganda related to attacks of temples. Six others were still at large, he added.
In one case in Kadapa district, a TDP sympathiser was said to have allegedly garlanded the statue of Anjaneya Swamy with slippers over a land dispute, according to the DGP.
He said “the conspiracy of TDP top brass is being investigated” in the case.
While Mr Sawang said two days ago that treasure trove hunters were involved in the desecration of a temple idol in Kurnool district in December last, on Friday he named four of the eight accused as “TDP cadres”.
All other cases, in which the DGP named TDP and BJP workers as accused, related to “false propaganda in the social media” and “an ill-conceived attempt by some criminals to spread fake news.”
“I appeal to political parties not to instigate religious animosity. Also, do not spread rumours at will in the social media. If you do that, we will not hesitate to take stern action, Mr Sawang said.
The TDP immediately spit fire on the DGP for blurting out “blatant lies”.
“Only two days ago you blamed thieves, drunks, insane persons and wild animals for destruction of temple idols. How come it has suddenly become political conspiracy,” TDP state president K Atchannaidu questioned the DGP.
“Your inefficiency in arresting the actual culprits involved has been exposed and now you are labelling some persons who forwarded social media posts as TDP sympathisers,” he lashed out.
Vishnuvardhan Reddy said: “It is so disgraceful. People of AP lost faith in the police. Are the police working for the people or the YSRC?” he asked.
The BJP leader said that only 48 hours ago the DGP made it clear there was no conspiracy involved in the attacks on temples.
“It is clear that people of other faith were behind the desecration of temples and idols. Police are acting only to sidetrack the investigation into temple attacks,” he alleged.