Tovino Thomas film set vandalism: Rashtriya Bajrang Dal leader arrested

The vandalism had drew a sharp reaction from Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan

collage via Facebook | @tovinothomas

Police on Monday arrested a leader of a fringe right-wing outfit in connection with the alleged vandalism of a cinema set near Kochi on May 24, an incident which drew a sharp reaction from Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

A district level leader of the Rashtriya Bajrang Dal was arrested in connection with the incident, police said.

He has been charged under various sections of the IPC, including 153A (Promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, place of birth, residence, language anddoing acts prejudicial to maintenance of harmony).

"We have registered a case. A Special Investigation Team has been constituted. The culprits will be arrested soon," Ernakulam Rural Superintendent of Police K. Karthick told reporters.

He asserted that all the culprits involved in the incident would be arrested.

Expressing anguish over the attack, actor Tovino Thomas, who is starring in the film, said the "contractual set" of the film "Minnal Murali" was destroyed by a group of "racialists".

Police said the arrest was part of the probe by the Special Investigation Team formed for the purpose after a case was registered against six people allegedly involved in damaging the set erected for the Malayalam film.

In a Facebook post, Hari Palode, the leader of a right-wing group Antharashtra Hindu Parishad, congratulated a district leader of "Rashtriya Bajrang Dal" for destroying the set raised on the sand bed of the Periyar river in Kalady, near a temple.

He has also posted photos of the alleged vandalism on his Facebook page.

The incident drew a sharp reaction from Vijayan.

"Such an act should not have happened in our state," he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram in response to a query.

Referring to incidents of targeting film sets and crew of movies in other parts of the country, allegedly by certain 'communal elements' as part of implementing their communal agenda, the chief minister said, "This was not accepted by the people of this country."

"All these are done by a particular sect of communal elements in our country.

“A common sentiment prevails against them in the country," he said.

Noting that the movie set was constructed in March by spending lakhs of rupees and shooting was stopped due to the lockdown, Vijayan sought to know "what religious sentiment was hurt" due to the erection of the film set there.

"Everyone knows why such a set was created. Kerala is not a place for such communal elements to indulge in vandalism. Strong action will be taken against this act," Vijayan said.

Actor Thomas said the film's first schedule at Wayanad had been in progress when the construction of the set for the second schedule began at Kalady.

It was carried out by art director Manu Jagad and team, under special instructions by stunt choreographer Vlad Rimburg.

"For this, we had the rightful permission from the authorities concerned.

And as we were about to start shooting in this set, which was built at a considerable cost, the whole country went into lockdown, following which our shoot was paused, just like all others", he said.

"It is during this prevailing uncertainty that this contractual set was destroyed by a group of racialists.

“The reasons they cite for this unceremonious act are not understood to our senses till now," the actor wrote on his Facebook page.

"We have heard of movie sets being vandalised by religious fanatics in northern parts of the country. Now it's happening to us right here. It has caused us a lot of distress and even more of anxiety. We have decided to go ahead with the legal proceedings," he said.

AHP general secretary Hari Palode said complaints were filed with the authorities against erecting the film set near the temple.

The set reportedly resembled a place of religious worship.

Left cultural organisation "Purogamana Kala Sahithya Sangham" and Kalady Shivratri Aghosha Samiti, a committee associated with the temple, also condemned the incident.