Over a week after a video of men vandalising a heritage site in Hampi went viral, the police have arrested four men in connection with the case. The arrested men allegedly told the police that they were not aware that the pillars belonged to a heritage site and that the monuments were of importance.
The three men have been identified as Rajbabu, a daily-wage worker at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), RA Raja, an engineering student in Bengaluru and Rajesh Chowdhury, who is also a daily-wage worker. According to the police, the man who filmed the incident, Ayush Shahu, works at a digital marketing firm in Bengaluru.
Rajbabu and Rajesh Chowdhury hail from Madhubani district in Bihar while Ayush Shahu is from Madhya Pradesh and Raja is from Bengaluru.
The police told TNM that the men began pushing the pillars out of "extreme excitement". The Archaeological Survey of India had filed a complaint with the Hampi police on February 2 after locals launched protests demanding better vigilance for preserving the heritage structures.
According to Ballari SP Arun Rangarajan, the men had come to Ballari to write the Railway Recruitment Board exams and decided to visit Hampi after writing the paper.
â€śFive men went on that trip last year. Three of them toppled the pillar at Vishnu temple while one friend videotaped the whole incident,â€ť SP Arun Rangarajan said. â€śThe other man was just seeing the sights and was not part of the vandalism incident. He was not aware that the four others were destroying heritage structures. They said that they only wanted to have fun and decided to push the pillars,â€ť he added.
The Hampi Police tracked down the four men with the help of Bihar Police and detained one man in Hyderabad and three in Bengaluru.
The accused allegedly told the police that they were "extremely excited" that they were able to push a pillar, which was so heavy. â€śThey said that they did not know that the ruins were heritage structures and that they did it out of sheer excitement,â€ť the police added.
The four men allegedly received multiple threats from various groups from Hampi due to the video, which had been doing the rounds.
â€śSome locals say they had seen the video a year ago and ever since these men left Hampi after the visit, they have been receiving threats. The men are saying they came here in January this year and the complainants are saying the video is old. We are yet to verify this,â€ť the police added.
Last week, a video had surfaced that showed three men vandalising a pillar at Hampi, at a UNESCO world heritage site. In the video, they are seen pushing an ancient pillar, causing it to topple and fall to the ground.
After the video went viral, people started blaming the ASI for not taking better care of India's heritage sites. ASI, meanwhile, claimed that the video was not a recent one and a year old. ASI officials also filed a complaint with the Hampi Police last Saturday, urging them to take quick action.
Contrary to the ASIâ€™s claims, however, the residents in the area said that the video cannot be a year old because they had seen the pillar erect only a couple of days ago.
At the time, the Vijayanagara Smaraka Samskrithi Samrakshana Sene (VSSS) convener Vishwanath Malagi had told TNM, "No one cares about the monuments here. Two to three years ago, someone damaged pillars at Achyutha Raya Bazaar. The ASI does not care about these structures either. In fact, ASI is responsible for damaging the pillars at the Virupaksha Bazaar.â€ť
@dr_maheshsharma @mepratap @CTRavi_BJP @SushmaSwaraj @narendramodi pls have a look on the video our world heritage Hampi is getting destroyed by this maroons .. pls take action against him #savehampi pic.twitter.com/BEHnqLaNHOâ€” Thyagaraj (@Thyagaa) January 31, 2019