Tension in Ramateertham over idol desecration

High tension prevailed at Ramateertham in Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh on Saturday as leaders of opposition and ruling parties resorted to protests and counter protests over desecration of an idol of Lord Ram at Sita Lakshmana Kodandarama temple.

The area around the hill shrine was rocked by unrest while additional police force was rushed to prevent any untoward incident.

Leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Telugu Desam Party (TDP) sought permission to go up Bodikonda hillock after leaders of ruling YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) visited the temple to see the desecrated idol.

When YSRCP MP Vijay Sai Reddy and other leaders of the ruling party coming down the hill, leaders and workers of opposition parties who had gathered there raised slogans.

At one stage supporters of the three parties nearly came to blows. They pushed and jostled each other and in the melee BJP's district unit president Reddy Pavani fell unconscious.

Some protesters pelted stones on Vijay Sai Reddy's convoy. Police had a tough time in escorting him and other YSRCP leaders to safety.

BJP leaders, who were on hunger strike at downhill, raised an objection to the visit by the ruling party leaders to the temple. They said the YSRCP leaders had no right to visit the temple as the government has failed to protect the temples.

Meanwhile, police tried to stop TDP president and leader of opposition N. Chandrababu Naidu and other party leaders on their way to Ramateertham.

The former chief minister, who flew into Visakhapatnam from Vijayawada, left for Ramateertham by road along former deputy chief minister Chinnarajappa and others. However, as the convoy reached Vizianagaram, police stopped them. There was heated argument between the TDP leaders and police officers.

Chandrababu Naidu and Chinnarajappa got down from their vehicles and sat on the road to stage protest against the police's action. The police later allowed them to proceed to Ramateertham.

The priests of the ancient temple on Tuesday found the doors broken. The idol in the sanctum sanctorum was desecrated and the severed head portion of the idol was later recovered from a nearby pond the next day.

Police formed five teams to nab the culprits. A police officer said they detained five suspects and have been questioning them.

The desecration, the latest in a series of incidents in the state, triggered public outrage. The opposition parties targeted the YSRCP government and alleged that its inaction showed its tacit support.

The BJP called for 'Chalo Ramatheertham' to protest against the repeated desecration of temples.

BJP secretary and state co-incharge Sunil Deodhar warned that Jagan Mohan Reddy government will have to pay huge price for such desecration activities.

He stated that every attack on temples in the state is testing the patience of the Hindu community.

Jagan government "is failing to arrest culprits while tacitly showing love for a particular religion", he alleged.

Deodhar said the party has decided to take their protests to streets against "the attacks on temples, temple lands and on Hindutva" in Andhra Pradesh.

The incidents also led to a war of words. Vijay Sai Reddy alleged on Saturday that former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and his followers was behind the Ramatheertham incident. He alleged that the TDP leaders have resorted to the act to malign YSRCP government.

He pointed out that TDP leader and former minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju is still the chairman of the temple board.

Cabinet minister Botcha Satyanarayana slammed the BJP for making baseless allegations against the government for political gain.

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