Several parts of Jharkhand, including the state capital, shut down on Friday in response to a strike called by Hindu religious groups, and supported by Muslims, to protest the theft of a three-century-old idol of a Hindu goddess from a revered temple in Ramgarh district.
The strike was called by the Hindu religious group, Mahaveer Madal Samiti, and supported by more than a dozen organisations like Kali Sena. The strike was also supported by Muslims.
According to police, more than 1,700 people have been arrested from different parts of the state for the strike.
The idol of goddess Chhinmastika, considered an avatar of Goddess Durga, was found missing from a temple in Rajrappa, about 70 km from here. Priests discovered the theft July 2 when they opened the temple at 4 a.m. Both the eyes of the idol are of gold. Besides the idol, 40 kg silver robes and other jewellery of the idol were also stolen.
The Chhinmastika temple is one of the 52 'shaktipeeths', the most revered Durga and Kali temples, in India.
"We decided to close our shops. The idol theft is unfortunate and we condemn it," said Mohhamd Naim, a member of the Ranchi Daily Market Association.
The strike had a visible impact in many parts of the state. "People of all religions are shocked over theft of the idol. We demand immediate action by the police," said Uday Shankar Ojha, president of the Mahaveer Mandal Samity.
In Ranchi, protesters burnt tyres on the road and police used batons on the strike supporters while schools and shops remained closed. Even banks and ATMs were closed.
There was a complete shutdown in Ranchi, Hazaribagh, Gumla, Ramgarh, Simdega districts, where educational establishments were closed as were shops and attendance in offices was poor. Buses did not ply in some areas.
A Special Task Force (STF) has been constituted to crack the case. Police have interrogated 13 people, but made no headway.
Jharkhand Governor M.O.H. Farook has directed the police to beef up security at temples after the theft.