Gonda (UP), Oct 17 (PTI) Seven people, including a mahant and a village head, have been arrested in connection with the attack on a temple priest in Gonda district, police said on Saturday.
The district police is also investigating the involvement of the priest, Atul Tripathi alias Samrat Das, who had suffered injuries in the attack last week and is currently admitted to King George's Medical College Hospital in Lucknow, they said.
Police claimed that Mahant Sitaramdas of the temple, the village head and the injured priest had themselves hatched a conspiracy to carry out the attack.
The state government had faced a lot of criticism over the incident.
In a joint press conference, District Magistrate Nitin Bansal and Superintendent of Police Shailesh Kumar Pandey said that Das was injured when he was shot at on the night of October 10 in Shri Ram Janki Temple in the village.
In this connection, a case of attempt to murder was registered by Mahant Sitaramdas of the temple against four people and two of them were arrested the next day.
Since the matter pertained to the attack on the priest of Ram Janki Temple, the saints of Ayodhya had also come to the district and demanded prompt action against the culprits.
Five teams were constituted for solving the case and on the basis of electronic evidences, statements of witnesses and other inputs, seven accused were arrested on Friday and efforts were on to nab the other person who is still absconding, the SP said.
Three country-made revolvers, seven live cartridges, one empty cartridge and a mobile phone were recovered from them, he said.
The SP said that Ram Janki Temple in Tirre Manorama village had 120 bigha land over which there was a rivalry between former village head Amar Singh and Mahant Sitaramdas.
There was also a political rivalry between Amar Singh and the present gram pradhan, Vinay Singh, the SP said, adding that both Mahant Sitaramdas and Vinay Singh planned to get Amar Singh framed in a serious matter to serve their respective motives.
They planned to shoot the priest in a manner in which he suffers injury but there was no threat to his life, he said, adding that on the day all the accused gathered in the temple premises and decided that three of them would carry out the plan.
With the priest's consent, one of them fired at him while Mahant Sitaramdas pretended to be asleep in his room, the SP said.
The home guards who rushed to the temple on hearing the gun shot saw three people escaping in the torch light, he added.
Police said that two people who were earlier arrested on the basis of the FIR filed by Mahant Sitaramdas will be released soon. PTI COR SAB KJ