Andhra's Pelluru village in Prakasam district witnessed high tension on Saturday after miscreants desecrated a statue of Dr BR Ambedkar. After a garland of slippers was hung on the statue, a group of Dalits staged a demonstration against those responsible for the incident.
The police rushed to the spot after learning about the incident and took down the garland.
According to locals, the issue started after a tiff over the naming of a community hall.
Speaking to TNM, State Secretary of the Andhra Pradresh Bahujana Rachayitala Vedika, Ravi Kumar Nukathoti said, "It all began after Dalits started using the community hall, and some members from a BC community began protesting this."
Reports add that the BCs pointed out that the community hall had been built with funds from the Ongole Municipal Corporation and stood on land that was donated by them.
Chakka Venkateshwarlu, a local activist, told TNM, "We came to know about the incident in the early hours of June 3, and we protested against this by blocking the road."
Following this, Superintendent of Police, CM Trivikram Varma, rushed to the village with a large police force to restore normalcy, Venkateshwarlu said.
The protesting Dalits, including Venkateshwarlu, also claimed that the incident happened as they had "asked the other community men to stop drinking alcohol near the Ambedkar statue and the community hall in March."
"When we said this, some of them started abusing us, and told us that their ancestors had donated the land. They even threatened to demolish the statue and the building," Venkateshwarlu alleged.
At the time, Dalits from the village say that they had filed a case with the Ongole circle police station for "verbally abusing" them, under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
"There was no development in the case till now, and this incident has happened now," Venkashwarlu added.
Bahujana Rachayitala Vedika and other civil society groups condemned the incident, and are organising a round table meeting in the village on Sunday evening.
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) Ongole president Miriyam Anji Babu also visited the site and said, "This is a shameful act. Whoever did this must be punished."
He also asked the District Collector to step in and solve the land issue.
Ongole DSP G Srinivasa Rao said that they had filed another case on the incident under the SC/ST Act and also other related sections of the IPC.
"We have started investigating the case, and a police picket has been set up at the village to maintain peace and normalcy," he said.
Kandukur DSP Prakash Rao has been appointed to investigate the case.
Speaking to TNM, Rao said, "They are alleging that the local people have done the act of garlanding the statue with slippers. The situation is under control, and we are collecting evidence."
"We will have a clearer picture by Monday," he added.
With inputs from Nitin B