Indian ruling BJP politician arrested over horse attack

DEHRADUN (AFP) - An Indian politician was arrested on Friday (March 18) on suspicion of attacking a police horse whose injuries led to a leg amputation, with the animal becoming a tool in a fierce battle between rival parties.

Police said Ganesh Joshi, from India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was remanded in custody for two weeks on charges of cruelty to the horse, which was wounded during a party protest in the northern state of Uttarakhand on Monday.

A BJP party worker who was caught on camera pulling a police officer down from the animal has also been arrested.

Indian celebrities have condemned the alleged attack on the horse, called Shaktiman, which was fitted with a prosthetic leg late on Thursday after having its limb amputated due to gangrene.

"A case was registered against the minister on Monday night. This morning he (Joshi) was arrested and produced at the court," said local police inspector Sanjay Gunjyal, who denies the charge.

"He has now been sent to 14 days of judicial custody," he added.

The Uttarakhand government, run by the rival Congress party, has spared no expense in treating the horse since the incident, with the creature becoming a cause celebre in the state.

Shaktiman has been treated to repeat visits from the state's chief minister and an American veterinary surgeon was reportedly flown in from Bhutan to provide treatment, in what some critics see as a case of political point-scoring.

The BJP and the opposition Congress party are arch rivals.

Phiroze Khambatta, a vet who was part of the team treating Shaktiman, said that horses with such injuries would normally be put down.

"Prosthetic limbs are fitted on horses weighing 200-300kg, but Shaktiman weighs 400kg. We can't predict how he will recover," Khambatta told the Times of India newspaper.

Television footage showed Joshi, a local lawmaker, brandishing a stick as he approached the horse. He denies attacking the animal.

Senior police superintendent Sadanand Datte told AFP that television footage showed the animal's leg becoming entangled in an iron mesh as it tried to stay upright in the melee of the protest.