Investigation into the attacks on some temples in Andhra Pradesh has revealed that most offences were committed by treasure trove hunters, believers in superstition, drunkards and others, Director General of Police D G Sawang said on Wednesday.
Addressing a press conference at the state police headquarters at Mangalagiri, the DGP said out of the 44 temple offences in 2020 and 2021, 15 cases remained yet unresolved.
"In all, we have so far arrested 80 people involved in these offences and rounded up 1,635 temple offenders. Another 2,979 'communal suspects' were also rounded up," the DGP said.
Attacks on some temples in the state, wherein the idols were desecrated and temple chariots were burnt, triggered a major row with opposition parties blaming the Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy government of failing to protect the religious places.
The chief minister, however, 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.
The DGP, who is also under attack from various quarters for failing to protect the temples and bringing the guilty to book, asserted that they have initiated elaborate steps to prevent such attacks on places of worship.
"In six cases of desecration of temple idols, it was found that treasure trove hunters were responsible and we have arrested 42 offenders in this connection."
"In one case (in Kurnool), one person was arrested for desecrating a temple idol to divert attention from an issue in which two political groups entered into a quarrel," the DGP said.
In three cases, the idols were desecrated to "settle scores over dispute of ownership (of land)."
Six persons were arrested in these cases.
In another three cases, superstitious beliefs led to vandalism in temples, Sawang pointed out, adding that five people were arrested.
In one case in Anantapuramu district, some wild animals damaged the idol of Lord Hanuman.
In four cases, drunkards gained entry into temples and damaged the idols in Kurnool, Krishna and East Godavari districts.
"We have arrested 14 people so far in these cases while another accused will be arrested soon," the DGP added.
Sawang said a person of unsound mind set the temple chariot on fire in SPS Nellore district while another mentally ill person damaged the idols in a temple in Visakhapatnam district.
Both were arrested.
In seven instances, the DGP said, some statues and idols were found damaged because of "wear and tear".
Nine people, including some journalists, who indulged in "false propaganda" over these incidents were arrested.
"Some more accused in these cases have to be arrested," he said.
There were two cases in which the idols got damaged accidentally but a false propaganda was launched in these instances as well.
"In one case (in Kurnool district), we arrested the temple priest, two trustees and two journalists for false propaganda," the DGP said.
"There are 15 major cases that still remain undetected, including the chariot burning case in Antarvedi temple, desecration of Lord Ramas idol at Ramateertham, damage of Sai Baba idol in Vijayawada, desecration of Lord Rama and Sita’s idols in Dwaraka Tirumala."
"We have entrusted the Antarvedi case to the CBI, which is yet to take up the investigation," the DGP said.
He said 58,871 religious places across the state have been mapped and 43,824 closed-circuit television cameras have been installed in 13,089 of them.
So far, 15,394 village defence squads have been formed while another 7,862 would soon be constituted.
"We have accorded top priority to complete investigation in undetected cases and special teams have been formed under the respective unit officers," Sawang said.
A control with a mobile phone 9392903400 was being set up to enable people to pass on any information related to temple offences.