An idol was reportedly vandalised inside a temple in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district on Sunday, with police sources saying the attackers seemed to be looking for hidden treasure.
The men were drawn to the temple by rumours that gold had been poured into the Nandi idol, but when they did not find any, they left the Shiva temple, sources in the police department said.
"The police have found broken pieces of the Nandi idol. We are investigating the case," Chittoor Superintendent of Police Senthil Kumar said.
The opposition BJP and Telugu Desam Party claim there have been many such cases of theft, vandalism and desecration of idols in temples and allege that these are targeted attacks. But the police said "isolated incidents" are being used to build a narrative.
"There is no connection in these 19 incidents (of alleged attack on temples). Each of these cases has a different motive, but there have been concerted efforts to link them together and build a narrative. While some incidents were a result of superstition and erosion, a probe is underway in others. We have arrested some persons who were found trying to spin stories around these cases because it creates communal disharmony. We urge people to not get carried away; go by the facts. If people have any information, they should contact the police," Andhra Pradesh Director General of Police Gautam Sawang said.
The YS Jaganmohan Reddy-led state government has been criticised and accused of allegedly allowing "extremist elements" to target places of worship with some groups even protesting outside the Chief Minister's Hyderabad residence a few days ago.
Recent remarks of Andhra Pradesh Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Minister Kodali Nani countering criticism had also backfired as it was perceived as insensitive to religious sentiments.
Mr Nani had said the deities would not be affected just because idols had been vandalised. He also alleged that the attacks looked organized to defame the YSRCP-led state government.