A gurdwara was allegedly damaged during a protest by United Andhra supporters against the decision to create the new Telangana state, triggering agitation by Sikhs in Hyderabad and drawing condemnation by the National Commission for Minorities and the SGPC on Sunday.
The protesters on Saturday damaged the windowpanes of the gurdwara in KL Puram area in Vizianagaram town, which has been witnessing large-scale destruction of public and private property allegedly by United Andhra Pradesh supporters since October 4 in protest against the union cabinet's decision to create Telangana, police said on Sunday.
An unruly mob indulged in vandalism in the town during the 48-hour Seemandhra bandh and pelted the shrine with stones, damaging its windowpanes, a senior police officer said.
Police immediately intervened and rescued five persons from the religious place, the officer said.
"We are in the process of identifying the persons behind the incident after going through the video footage. The Vizianagaram I Town police have registered a case under relevant sections of the IPC," the officer said.
Meanwhile, National Commission for Minorities (NCM) and Shiromani Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee condemned the attack.
"It is shocking to hear that the gurdwara was attacked by a mob. It is a condemnable act by miscreants who have been agitating against setting up of new Telangana state," NCM member Ajaib Singh told PTI on phone from Patiala.
He urged the Andhra Pradesh DGP to provide full security to the minority communities and their religious places.
He alleged that a mob had attacked the gurdwara and set it on fire causing major damage, and that the caretakers of the gurdwara were beaten badly and received injuries.
However, police in Vizianagaram said the shrine was not set on fire by the protesters.
Singh said a place of worship should not have become a target of attack during the rising tension and uprisings against the new state of Telangana.
SGPC chief Avtar Singh Makkar also condemned the incident. He said maintaining law and order is the state subject and urged the state government to take action against the miscreants. He said there were an estimated one lakh Sikhs and two gurdwaras in Vishakapatnam.
"The cause of the attack is not yet known. A person close to the gurdwara has said he was hiding in a small room while the gurdwara was being ransacked by a mob. The total damage has not yet been assessed, but police have controlled the situation now," he said.
Sikhs in Hyderabad and Secunderabad also staged a protest against the incident at Gurdwara Saheb Ameerpet in Hyderabad, demanding that the central and state governments arrest the miscreants involved in the attack and take stringent action against them.
President of Gurdwara Saheb Ameerpet Darshan Singh said attacking a religious place which had nothing to do with the ongoing Seemandhra agitation was unfortunate and should be condemned by one and all, according to a release.
Sikhs are peace-loving people and never get into controversies, he said.
President of Gurdwara Saheb Barambala, Sikh Chawniat, Attapur, Harbans Singh demanded that chief minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy see to it that culprits who were involved in the attack were arrested and stringent action was taken against them so that such incidents did not recur, the release said.