Night attack on sleeping sadhus at Siddhivinayak

Siddhivinayak temple

A group of masked men, suspected to be MNS supporters, attacked sadhus sleeping outside Siddhivinayak Temple on Monday night, beating them up with bamboo sticks, calling them drug addicts and telling them they should not be seen in the vicinity any more "if they valued their lives".

The assault followed the Akhil Bharatiya Brahmin Mahasangh's alleged announcement of a Rs 1-crore award to anyone who could slap MNS chief Raj Thackeray. The Dadar police suspect a connection but the MNS has denied any involvement.

The police detained some suspects and registered a case of rioting, assault and criminal intimidation against unknown persons. They said the sadhus are frequent visitors but not affiliated to any religious or North Indian outfit.

"They tie sacred threads on the wrists of devotees and earn dakshina. Tuesdays being auspicious, they would arrive on Monday night and sleep on the open ground. Around 12.30 am, around seven to eight men, handkerchiefs tied around their faces, suddenly arrived and beat them up with bamboo sticks," said DCP (Zone V) Milind Bharambe. The sadhus suffered minor bruises.

"It is too early to say the attackers definitely belong to the MNS but there is obviously a connection between the MNS and the background to the incident," said JCP (Law and Order) Himanshu Roy.

While denying his party's role, the MNS's Dadar vibhag pramukh, Yeshwant Killedar, still saw a justification for the attack. "Some local youths were fed up with the sadhus smoking in the area and dealt with it their own way. These sadhus are frauds who come here from villages up north to earn easy money," he said.

The police are also contemplating legal action against two TV cameramen who had been allegedly informed in advance by the attackers, and who captured the entire incident, Roy said. The footage is helping identify absconders.

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