"Rather, aggressive attempts seem to be on to link all these incidents to give a spin to the narrative, which is wrong," DGP Gautam Sawang said.

Andhra DGP Gautam Sawang addressing media File Image
news Crime investigation Tuesday, September 29, 2020 - 10:08

Andhra Pradesh DGP Damodar Gautam Sawang on Monday said that crimes reported from different temples across the state were isolated ones and not linked in any way. He claimed that 12 of the 19 temple attack cases since the Antarvedi Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple chariot blaze had been cracked. An old chariot was gutted in a fire in the early hours of September 6 in Antarvedi and the incident had sparked off a major row in the state, with opposition parties alleging that there was a conspiracy behind such incidents.

"Bounty hunters, criminal elements, people with superstitious beliefs, and others were found involved in crimes at temples in Andhra Pradesh, which registered the lowest such cases in 2020, compared with the past five years," the DGP said.

"All these are standalone incidents -- each one has a different motive. Various other attacks were executed by gangs hunting for treasures supposedly hidden under idols. Therefore, all these incidents have different motives and are completely unrelated," Sawang added.

The DGP was reacting after allegations that Hindu temples were deliberately targeted in Andhra Pradesh in a planned manner.

"Rather, aggressive attempts seem to be on to link all these incidents to give a spin to the narrative, which is wrong," he said.

The DGP presented statistics on temple attacks in Andhra, he said that around 228 cases were identified in 2020, which were lower than the previous years. In 2019, when Andhra witnessed change in ruling party from Telugu Desam Party (TDP) to YSRCP, the state witnessed 305 cases involving temples.

During the TDP regime, the state saw 290 cases in 2015, 322 in 2016, 318 in 2017 and 267 in 2018, indicating that the temples were reporting damage in some form or the other through attacks or elements of nature or bounty hunters, the DGP reasoned.

Even on social media, targeted propaganda is occurring relentlessly, he said. Commenting on the latest 'Nandi' idol being damaged in a Chittoor temple, Sawang said that police had sent a notice to the temple management and was investigating it from all possible angles.

"We have mapped a total of 47,593 places of worship in Andhra Pradesh, of which 28,567 are temples. Only 10% have CCTVs," he said, elaborating on security at religious places.

Police have issued notices to temple authorities to take measures like installing surveillance cameras and increasing illumination around the complexes for security.

"A comprehensive social 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 persons who had committed similar offences in the past six years," the DGP asserted.

While requesting the state's people not to get carried away by false propaganda, he said "I request people not to get carried away and should focus on facts. If any citizen has any concern or information, I request him or her to approach the police. I personally assure that we will respond promptly and look into the matter."

(With IANS inputs)

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