Sixteen people have been arrested so far on charges of assaulting two policemen who last week stopped locals from hoisting a 'saffron flag' in a communally sensitive area in Latur district, police said on Wednesday.
A mob had allegedly beaten up Assistant Sub-Inspector Yunus Shaikh (57) and manhandled his colleague K Awaskar when they prevented them from putting up the flag at a controversial spot in Pangaon village.
Shaikh was hospitalised following the assault. The 12000-strong population of Pangaon village consists of Marathas, Dalits, Reddys and Muslims among others.
On the night of February 19, Shaikh and Awaskar allegedly stopped a group of local youths from erecting the flag in the 'sensitive' area. The group included Marathas and other Hindus celebrating Shivaji Jayanti, police said.
Awaskar and Shaikh, both on duty at Pangaon police chowki, reached the spot and asked the youth to leave. They told them that erecting the flag could lead to communal clashes, a police official said. At 9 AM on Saturday, a mob of around 200-300 people from the village, including the youths, showed up at the police chowki.
"They (youths) had incited the mob by telling them that the two policemen had crushed their flags under their feet," the official said. The mob then allegedly began to attack the duo with fists and lathis. The ASI and his colleague suffered head injuries, but Shaikh was hit worse and was hospitalised.
A video of the purported attack, which has gone viral, shows Shaikh being made to parade a street with the saffron flag by the mob.