The Tamil Nadu Police on Tuesday invoked the Goondas Act against two Hindu Munnani workers who were arrested for allegedly defacing a statue of social reformer Periyar EV Ramasamy, reported IANS.

“Considering the law and order problem likely to arise due to the incident, Coimbatore Police Commissioner Pradip Kumar issued a detention order,” the police said.

The two accused persons, V Arun Karthik and V Mohanraj are both residents of Vellalore in Coimbatore, reported India Today. The duo had allegedly smeared the face of the statue with saffron-coloured powder and garlanded it with slippers.

The incident took place on January 8 and came to light the next day. Karthik and Mohanraj were arrested on January 11. Currently, they are lodged in Coimbatore Central Prison.

The incident had caused widespread anger. Members of the Dravidar Kazhagam and Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam staged protests and demanded action against the people responsible for defacing the statue.

Periyar statues have been vandalised across Tamil Nadu in the past as well. In July 2020, two statues of the social reformer were defaced in Coimbatore city and Thirukoilure town. The incidents led to protests with leaders of several political parties expressing outrage.

In the Coimbatore city incident, the statue was covered with saffron-coloured liquid. In Thirukoilure, some people had put a garland made of footwear around the statue’s neck.

Periyar is regarded as the founder of the Dravidian Movement. He protested against gender and caste inequality. In Tamil Nadu, his birth anniversary is celebrated as “Social Justice Day” since 2021.