The two men said that they had been abducted in order to force them to give a statement exonerating Reddy of any responsibility for the events in the video. This contradicted the statement they had made to a Telugu news channel a day before.
The video of the original incident, which went viral last month, showed a man identified as Bharat Reddy holding a stick and threatening to cane two men identified as Laxman and Rajeswar of Abhangapatnam village, while hurling abuses at them.
He then forces the two men to walk into a muddy pool and dip themselves repeatedly. The two men find themselves without any choice and perform the punishment, even as they tell Reddy that what he is doing to them is wrong.
From the day that the video began circulating on social media – November 12 – the two men had gone missing.
However, in a sudden twist to the whole case, they ‘resurfaced’ in Hyderabad on Friday and told the television channel NTV that they had not been kidnapped and were part of a cinema shoot.
They claimed that they were just acting in the video of them being punished, and it was all part of an elaborate movie. They also denied allegations that they were abducted by Reddy.
They also said that they had gone to Hyderabad looking for work, and did not know that the police were looking for them.
However, after returning home on Saturday, they changed their statements.
“We have been missing for a few days, and a lot of groups had protested for us. It is with your help, that we have come out of this. About yesterday’s video, we didn’t do it intentionally. We were forced to say certain things after they forced us in secret. With the hope that we will be able to leave, we participated in what they asked us to do for 10 minutes or so,” one of the men, named Laxman, said.
“Don’t think that we are saying a different thing every day. We experienced hell over there,” he added.
“They took us to Hyderabad, and kept us there for many days. They asked to speak to their lawyer, and said that we just had to speak to him, and then we could go home. We said whatever the lawyer told us to say, to protect our lives,” Rajeswar said.
Watch the video of their last set of statements below:
The viral video of Laxman and Rajeshwar’s punishment had sparked massive outrage on social media, with various social groups organising a large-scale protest at the village.
On November 19, protesters staged a ‘rasta roko’ and camped outside the Navipet police station, which is investigating the case, and demanded the immediate arrest of Reddy.
Members from various groups including the Madiga Reservation Porata Samithi (MRPS), Kula Vivaksha Vyatireka Porata Sangham (KVPS), and the Scientific Students Federation, as well as students from Telangana University, Kakatiya University and Osmania University, took part in the protest.
When the video went viral, it was reported that Reddy was a leader of the BJP. However, the Telangana unit of the BJP stated that Reddy was not a party leader and held no positions in the party.
“BJP strongly condemns misrepresentation in few sections of media on the viral video from Nizamabad. The individual exhibiting barbaric and unacceptable behaviour in Nizamabad on Dalits is not a BJP leader, nor does he hold any position in the party at any level,” BJP spokesperson Krishna Saagar Rao had said in a statement.
But, photos and videos online show Reddy holding BJP flags and taking part in protests with party workers.
The police have registered a case under sections of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act and under Section 506 (Criminal Intimidation) of the IPC.