The West Bengal Police on Saturday arrested 12 persons for allegedly assaulting three Hindu ascetics, who were heading to the Gangasagar pilgrimage site, after a mob mistook them for alleged kidnappers in the Purulia district.

The police said that there was no communal angle in the incident, which took place on Thursday, as claimed by several members of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

A video of the attack showing the mob thrashing the ascetics was widely shared on social media by BJP leaders on Friday. The party’s social media cell chief Amit Malviya alleged that the attackers were affiliated with the Trinamool Congress and remarked that it was a “crime to be a Hindu in West Bengal”.

He said: “Absolutely shocking incident reported from Purulia in West Bengal. In a Palghar kind lynching, sadhus traveling to Gangasagar for Makar Sankranti, were stripped and beaten by criminals, affiliated with the ruling TMC.”

Malviya was referring to the killing of three Mumbai residents by a mob in Maharashtra’s Palghar district in April 2020. The three were allegedly attacked on the suspicion of being thieves. Two of the victims were Hindu ascetics from Mumbai’s Kandivali suburb, and the third was their driver.

On Saturday, the Purulia Police clarified that there was a misunderstanding between the three ascetics with three local minor girls near Kashipur since they could not speak Bengali.

“The girls got scared and local people manhandled the sadhus and damaged their vehicle, alleging a kidnapping attempt,” the police said. “Local police promptly intervened and rescued the sadhus. 12 people have been arrested over the incident on the basis of a specific case. All possible assistance was rendered to the sadhus.”

The police warned: “Anyone trying to fuel communal passions will be strictly dealt with as per law.”

On Saturday, the Trinamool Congress party also responded to the BJP’s allegations by sharing an interview of one of the asectics who was thrashed.

The man, Madhur, told reporters that he along with his two sons was travelling from Bareilly in Uttar Pradesh and were beaten up due to misunderstanding with the locals.

“Testimonials from one of the Sadhus involved in yesterday’s incident in Kashipur, Purulia clarified that there was no political involvement,” the party said. “He went on to express gratitude to the police for their prompt action in rescuing them and taking necessary steps. BJP’s attempts to give the incident a communal overtone have fallen flat.”