Temple wealth vulnerable to thefts

Enhancing security at temples to protect precious valuables need of the hour, feel residents

Dipender Manta

Temples in the state are vulnerable to thefts and a majority of these lack adequate security arrangements. 

The temples are becoming easy targets for thieves, who lay their hands on the antique and precious idols, gold and silver jewellery apart from cash. Earlier, the information about valuables such as idols, jewellery and income kept in the temples was kept secret from the public by the kardar sangh, but now, the information about temple property is openly available. A majority of religious places have been connected with road facilities, which gives ample time to thieves to flee away after committing the crime during night.

No lessons learnt 

Several temple thefts have been reported in the state in the past, but no lessons have been learnt from these incidents, it seems. The police, since 2013, are urging the kardar sangh to equip temples with CCTV cameras with night vision capacity, which can help in nabbing the culprits. But very few temples have this facility. A majority of the temples do not even have a watchman to guard temple premises.

In 2013, some miscreants killed the security guard of 300-year-old ancient temple at Bachhunch village in Rohru subdivision under Shimla district and looted artefacts and ancient idols from the temple. There was no CCTV camera installed on the premises, which could have played a major role in solving the case.

Another major temple theft was registered in Kullu district in 2014, when thieves decamped with the 17th Century idol of Lord Raghunath worth crores of rupees on the intervening night of December 9 and 10. It shook the entire state, as the incident happened in the main district headquarters, where the police are present round the clock for night patrolling.

During police investigation, the CCTV cameras installed at the temple was found defunct, as a result, the police had to grope in dark. However, within two months, the police cracked the blind case, but the accused took shelter in Nepal and the state government failed to bring him back to take any legal action against him.

In the last 10 years, burglars have targeted over 150 temples and monasteries in the state. The police seem helpless in cracking such cases, as they have no leads to crackdown on offenders. Despite several meetings of the Police Department with the kardar sanghs over this issue, little headway can be made to ensure security at temples.

The kardar sangh urged the state government to provide funds for the installation of CCTV cameras in temples and to deploy guards, but the government said it was not possible for it to provide CCTV cameras and a guard for each temple in the state.

Shivpal Sharma, president of Kardar Sangh Mandi, said: “Open information about temple’s precious wealth and promotion of religious places for tourism purpose has made temples prone to thefts. A majority of the temples are not equipped with adequate security arrangements, which make these easy targets for robbers.”

He said the state government should come forward to protect this precious wealth of the state and provide at least CCTV cameras in temples. Despite our several pleas, the state government seems reluctant to work over it, he said.

Ashish Kumar, a resident of Kullu, said: “To stop thefts in temples in the near future, the society as a whole should come forward in enhancing security arrangements at the temples instead of depending on the government.”

SP, Mandi, Gurdev Chand Sharma said: “The police encourage kardars of deities to install CCTV cameras in temples and deploy a guard for its security. Before deploying any guard, they should verify his details and always give preference to local people. The police conduct patrolling in areas and hold nakas at suspicious places to keep a tab on offenders.”

Major theft cases

  • In July 2013, armed burglars not only decamped with precious idols and jewels worth several crores from Bachhunch village of Rohru tehsil in Shimla district, but also killed the temple chowkidar
  • In November 2013, a monk was murdered in Kinnaur district and a precious mixed metal idol of Guru Padamsambhava was stolen from Tirsang monastery
  • In December 2013, antique idols of Lord Rama and Sita, including a few other gold and silver ornaments were stolen from Lord Raghunath temple in Kullu district
  • In August 2014, burglars targeted the 800-year-old Shirgul Maharaj temple in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh and decamped with a mixed metal idol, gold, around 3.5 kg silver and some cash
  • In September 2016, burglars struck at three temples at Takoli in Mandi district in Laxmi Narayan, Bagulamukhi and Jarasandh, from where they decamped with cash and gold and silver ornaments worth lakhs.
  • In August 2018, thieves committed burglary at the famous Trilokinath temple in the tribal district of Lahaul and Spiti and decamped with cash worth lakhs
  • In August 2018, the Bagulamukhi temple in Hamirpur district was also targeted by thieves, who decamped with cash and other valuables worth lakhs

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