Days after a video of two Dalit men being ‘punished’ in Telangana's Nizamabad district went viral, the duo have gone missing from their homes.
The accused, believed to be BJP leader Bharat Reddy, is also absconding.
The video of the incident, which took place in Abhangapatnam village, shows a man holding a stick and threatening to cane two men as he hurls abuses at them.
He then forced them to enter muddy water and dip themselves repeatedly, even as they tell Reddy that what he was doing was wrong.
Reports suggested that the two men had stopped the vehicle in which Bharat Reddy was traveling, to question the occupants of the car about alleged illegal sand mining that the BJP leader was allegedly indulging in.
"The two men have been identified as Rajeshwar and Laxman and they have been missing since the FIR was filed. The police spoke to their family members, who said that they had left for work on November 12, but did not return," a police officer from the Navipet station told TNM.
"A team has been formed to look out for the accused, and we will nab him soon. We are also making all efforts to trace the two victims," the police officer added.
Coincidentally, the video began going viral on November 11 and 12.
The police suspect that the incident took place last month around the time of Dusshera festivities, but surfaced last week.
Meanwhile, Nizamabad police commissioner Kartikeya visited Abhangapatnam on Monday and interacted with Rajeshwar's family, before visiting the mud water pond, where the victims were forced to take a dip.
"A case has been registered with the Navipet police station and the investigation is being overseen by Nizamabad ACP Sudarshan. I also visited the crime scene, and the investigation is presently going on. We are making efforts to find the accused," the Commissioner told media persons.
The case has been registered under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and Section 506 (Criminal Intimidation) of the IPC.
Several parties in Nizamabad have condemned the incident, and demanded that the BJP leader be arrested.
Dalit organisations have also given a call for a ‘Chalo Abhangapatnam’ on November 19.
As the video went viral, the Telangana unit of the BJP dismissed allegations that the person in the video was a party leader.
"BJP strongly condemns misrepresentation in few sections of media on the viral video from Nizamabad. The individual exhibiting barbaric and unacceptable behaviour in Nizamabad on Dalits is not a BJP leader, nor does he hold any position in the party at any level," BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao said in a statement.