4 Men Seen in Video Vandalising Hampi Heritage Structure Arrested
Over a week after a video of men vandalising a heritage site in Hampi went viral, the police have arrested four men in connection with the case. The arrested men allegedly told the police that they were not aware that the pillars belonged to a heritage site and that the monuments were of importance.
The three men, who had actually tried to vandalise the structure, have been identified as Rajbabu, a daily-wage worker at Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), RA Raja, an engineering student in Bengaluru and Rajesh Chowdhury, who is also a daily-wage worker.
According to the police, the fourth man who filmed the incident, Ayush Shahu, works at a digital marketing firm in Bengaluru.
Rajbabu and Rajesh Chowdhury hail from Madhubani district in Bihar while Ayush Shahu is from Madhya Pradesh and Raja is from Bengaluru.
The Archaeological Survey of India had filed a complaint with the Hampi police on 2 February after locals launched protests demanding better vigilance for preserving the heritage structures.
According to Ballari SP Arun Rangarajan, the men had come to Ballari one year ago to take the Railway Recruitment Board examination and decided to visit Hampi after writing the paper.
“Five men went on that trip last year. Three of them toppled the pillar at Vishnu temple while one friend videotaped the whole incident. The other man was just seeing the sights and was not part of the vandalism incident. He was not aware that four others were destroying heritage structures.”Arun Rangarajan, Ballari SP
The Hampi Police tracked down the four men with the help of Bihar Police and detained one man in Hyderabad and three in Bengaluru.
The accused allegedly told the police they were "extremely excited" to realise that they could push a pillar which was so heavy. “They said they did not know that the ruins were part of a heritage structure and that they did it out of sheer excitement,” the police added.
“Some locals had seen the video a year ago and ever since these men left Hampi after the visit, they have been receiving threats. We are yet to verify this,” the police added.
Last week, a video had surfaced that showed three men vandalising a pillar at Hampi, at a UNESCO world heritage site. In the video, they are seen pushing an ancient pillar, causing it to topple and fall to the ground.
After the video went viral, people started blaming the ASI for not taking better care of India's heritage sites. ASI, meanwhile, claimed that the video was not a recent one and a year old. ASI officials also filed a complaint with the Hampi Police last Saturday, urging them to take quick action.
At the time, the Vijayanagara Smaraka Samskrithi Samrakshana Sene (VSSS) convener Vishwanath Malagi had told TNM, "No one cares about the monuments here. Two to three years ago, someone damaged pillars at Achyutha Raya Bazaar. The ASI does not care about these structures either. In fact, ASI is responsible for damaging the pillars at the Virupaksha Bazaar.”
(This article originally appeared on The News Minute and has been republished with permission).