Three persons, including a Bajrang Dal member, were arrested on Thursday for damaging a bust of social reformer Bhim Rao Ambedkar and assaulting Dalit villagers in Madhya Pradesh’s Sehore district, reported The Indian Express.
The police said the men, who were part of a mob, were retaliating to the assault of a priest last month.
“Around eight days ago, a fight had broken out during a religious procession,” Usha Marawi, the officer in charge of the Ichhawar police station, told The Indian Express. “A villager, in an inebriated state, hit a priest carrying a Hanuman flag with a stick. There was a photograph of Hanuman fixed atop the flag, which was damaged. The present incident took place because of that.”
The Dalit man, named Kanhaiya Lal, had been arrested for the offence.
On Tuesday, the mob damaged the Ambedkar statue and vandalised Lal’s house. According to the first information report, five men – Ajay Rathore, Sheru Verma, Sukka Verma, Ravi Mali and Kuldeep Verma – allegedly beat up the complainant Manoj Malviya when he tried to stop them, reported the Free Press Journal.
The mob also used casteist slurs against the villagers who were trying to prevent damage to the statue.
“They planted a saffron flag and left after damaging the roof,” Lal’s father Durga Prasad told The Indian Express. “My son was drunk when the incident happened. They should not have attacked my home.”
The men have been booked for criminal intimidation, causing hurt, outraging religious feelings and mischief causing damage. They have also been booked under provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.
In April, Rathore, who is a member of Bajrang Dal and the main accused person in the case, had objected to the installation of the Ambedkar statue, reported The Indian Express.
“When they turned up with the procession playing a DJ and began damaging the statue, I objected to it and fought against the mob,” Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh member Dhiraj Patidar told the newspaper. “Most of them were outsiders. We have nothing against Ambedkar.”
A Bhim Yuva Sanghatan member, however, said that the village panchayat had decided to install the statue. “We did it with everyone’s permission, but tensions have been boiling because of that,” he added.