Hyderabad: There have been series of suspicious incidents of vandalizing places of worship in the recent months in Andhra Pradesh. Almost all the incidents happened during the night.

The State government sees a larger conspiracy behind these orchestrated incidents to defame it and stoke religious sentiments in the communally peaceful state. In this context, exercising restraint is extremely important in the current scenario.

When the atmosphere is charged and vitiated rumor mongers will work overtime and rumors will fly thick and fast. My humble request for media personnel to observe restraint and extreme caution during such times and do not become tools in the hands of vested interests.

The State government appointed a 16-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by ACB additional director GVG Ashok Kumar, an officer of the rank of DIG to investigate such incidents that occurred from September 2020. The SIT also comprises one officer of the rank of SP, two additional SPs, four DSPs, four inspectors, and four Sis.

Going by the records, at least five incidents need some scrutiny. In the alleged desecration of Saraswati temples at Etcherla in Srikakulam and Narsaraopet in Guntur … both the incidents were more than two years old. However, unscrupulous elements posted these incidents and social media as if they were fresh incidents. Media, unfortunately without going into the facts, fell into the trap of social media and rumor mongers.

In the third incident in Allagadda of Kurnool, a person with superstition desecrated the Kalabhairava temple on September 19. He believed that his wife would bear a child if he had placed a part of the idol in his house. The accused was arrested.

The fourth incident is worth noticing. On Jan 5, social media went agog over the alleged desecration of idols erected on the arch of Varaha Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple at Singarayakonda. The arch, which was constructed in 1999, is located 2 km from the temple. Due to salty weather conditions and wear and tear, the idols on the arch were repaired twice. Two months ago, the hands of an idle became partly loose and the donors were informed about it and they promised to get the work done during Brahmotsavams this year. However, six persons including representatives of a few media houses without verifying the facts helped in spreading false news.

In another incident at Golugonda of Visakhapatnam Rural, a two-month-old incident where an idol was damaged accidentally, some persons had spread the rumor that the incident happened on Jan 5. In all these cases, police have managed to identify the culprits of rumor-mongering and spreading rumors on social media.

These incidents have clearly indicated that mainstream media is falling into the trap of social media and inadvertently spreading false news leading to communal tension in the State. The probe by SIT will throw much more light on several such incidents in the days to come.

Amar Devulapalli

Amar Devulapalli is the Advisor, National Media and Interstate Affairs of Government of Andhra Pradesh

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