The ritual threads of at least 15 people were cut in Triplicane, Chennai on Wednesday, the police have said. The police are on the lookout for a gang of eight people who allegedly cut the thread, which is considered sacred by Brahmins.

The incident is believed to have taken place around 7 am within the limits of Ice House police station. According to the police, the suspects shouted slogans hailing social reformer EV Ramasamy, also known as Periyar.

“The Brahmins were either bare chested or were returning from a temple nearby,” The Indian Express quoted an unidentified police official as saying. “The men had raised slogans praising Periyar. Police teams are searching for the gang now.”

The incident comes after a statue of Periyar was vandalised in Thirupattur near Tamil Nadu’s Vellore on Tuesday. Two men have been arrested in connection with the incident. Tamil Nadu Bharatiya Janata Party leader H Raja on Tuesday had claimed that after Vladimir Lenin’s statue was brought down in Tripura, Periyar’s statues would be targeted next. Raja on Wednesday said his post on Facebook about Periyar statues in Tamil Nadu was published “without his permission”.

After the incidents of vandalism were reported, the Centre has asked the state governments to sternly take action against the perpetrators. “The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked the states that they must take all necessary measures to prevent such incidents,” a government statement released on Wednesday morning said. “Persons indulging in such acts must be sternly dealt with and booked under relevant provisions of law.”