The old city of Hyderabad remained tense on Sunday following the arrest of eight legislators of the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) when they were protesting against the erection of canopy at a temple abutting historic Charminar.
The arrests triggered violent protests in some parts of the communally sensitive old city while MIM, a key ally of Congress government, threatened to withdraw support, blaming it for violation of court orders.
All seven members of assembly and one member of legislative council belonging to MIM were released in the evening but a curfew-like situation continued with the Charminar area remaining out of bounds for public.
Four buses, two private cars, one ATM and one shop were damaged in incidents of stone pelting at over a dozen places.
Police Commissioner Anurag Sharma said 10 corporators and 109 activists of MIM were also taken into custody. Police registered 18 cases with regard to the stone pelting, 'dharnas', rallies, effigy burnings and other protests.
While MIM alleged that the high court orders were violated with police allowing the tarpaulin covers to be erected over the temple structure, police clarified that it was done after the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) gave a report on the status quo as on Oct 30.
In a statement released on Sunday night, the police commissioner said in pursuance of the interim directions of the high court, Hyderabad district collector and commissioner Greater Hyderabad Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) consulted the ASI to determine the status as on Oct 30.
"The ASI gave its opinion in writing that the temporary structure had a cover as on 30-10-2012. Based on these facts and discussions, the civic authorities permitted the Bhagyalakshmi Temple Committee to cover the temple structure with tarpaulin sheets," the statement said adding that the work was carried out between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. Sunday.
The high court on Nov 5 had ordered status quo while dealing with petitions against the expansion work at the temple.
Denying that the police was being partisan, the police commissioner action said would be taken against some channels for biased reporting.
Appealing people not to believe rumours, Mr Sharma said malicious and inflammatory content of certain social networking sites was also being taken cognizance of and efforts were being made continuously to identify and prosecute the perpetrators.
The usually busy roads around the 400-year-old Charminar monument even on Sundays were deserted with police sealing off all the routes.
Police intensified patrolling in the communally sensitive areas in the old city which witnessed communal clashes a few days ago.
Angry over the alleged violation of court orders, MIM announced that it would reconsider its support to Congress government in the state and the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government at the centre.
MIM chief and Member of Parliament Asaduddin Owaisi told reporters that the party's executive would meet on Monday to take a final decision. MIM has seven members in 295-member state assembly and extends crucial support to the Congress, which has a razor thin majority in the house.
Mr Owaisi held Chief Minister N. Kiran Kumar Reddy responsible for the "cowardly" act to "please" the "Sangh Parivar".
"This has reminded Muslims of the demolition of Babri Masjid. This has proved that the Congress government is not secular," Mr Owaisi said.
"The government is not heeding to us despite our repeated warnings against encouraging communal elements. It thinks we only talk and don't do anything," said Mr Owaisi.
Addressing a large number of MIM supporters at the party headquarters, he urged them to maintain peace.