Police arrested almost 500 protestors on Friday when they tried to stage a demonstration against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s unveiling of a controversial 113-foot Shiva statue in Coimbatore, PTI reported. Officials said some agitators released black balloons to express their dissent over alleged environmental violations committed by the event’s organiser, Isha Foundation, during the ceremony. Protestors also chanted slogans against Modi, for his “failure to protect the interests of farmers and tribals”, police said.

The agitators arrested are reportedly members of the Thanthai Periyar Dravidar Kazhagam, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Revolutionary Youth Front, Federation of Tamil Nadu Farmers’ Association and other organisations. Besides protesting against the yoga guru Jaggi Vasudev-led organisation’s alleged violations, they also demanded the Centre’s intervention to stop the construction of dams across river Bhavani by Kerala.

Officials said 17 protestors, with links to a fringe outfit, were arrested near the city airport when they tried to protest against the prime minister’s participation in the controversial event. Modi unveiled the statue, on the ocassion of Mahashivratri, amid protests. The statue is dedicated to “Adiyogi”, a form of Shiva who in the Hindu tradition is considered the first of yogis.

An online petition on change.org asking the prime minister to comply with their request had also gained traction.

On Wednesday, former judge of the Madras High Court, Hari Paranthaman, had alleged that the Isha Foundation was responsible for over 13 lakh sq feet of illegal constructions. “Should the prime minister associate himself with such an organisation?” Paranthaman asked, addressing a press conference in Chennai.

Isha Foundation, in a statement on its blog, had dismissed the allegations and said those with vested interests were trying to sabotage their Mahashivratri celebrations. The statement said necessary approvals had been obtained. The organisation describes itself as “a volunteer-run, international nonprofit organisation dedicated to cultivating human potential”.