India: Gang arrested in Andhra Pradesh for desecrating temples

Hyderabad: Andhra Pradesh police have arrested an inter state gang of treasure hunters in connection with a series of desecration incidents at temples in the state.

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Even as the opposition BJP had alleged that there was a conspiracy to target the temples for religious reasons, the state police said the incidents were isolated and the main motive was to steal ornaments and valuables.

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After the latest such incident on Sunday in Chittoor district, in which Nandi idol was damaged in a Shiva temple, police said that it had arrested 8 members of the gang and recovered implements and materials used in committing the crime.

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Chittoor district superintendent of police Senthil Kumar said that those arrested include two from Andhra Pradesh and six from Karnataka.

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“They were attracted to the temple by the rumours that gold was poured in the Nandi idol. After breaking the idol when they realized that there was no gold, they left the place leaving behind the pieces of the idol”, he said.

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What has caused concern and panic in the state was the frequency of such incidents. According to the sate director general of police Gautam Sawang there were 19 such incidents in recent weeks. “But there is no connection in these incidents. Each case has a different motive but there have been concerted efforts to link them together and build a narrative”, he said.

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Leaders of state’s main opposition party Telugu Desam and right wing BJP had alleged that there was a concerted effort to attack the temples but the state’s YSR Congress government had failed to prevent them. They blamed extremist elements for the alleged attacks.

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A senior minister of YS Jaganmohan Reddy government Kodali Nani said, “attacks appear to be an attempt to defame our government”.

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Sawang said that at least in one case of a temple in Srikakulam there was no vandalism. “The idol was damaged by the vagaries of weather. The person who was spreading the rumors of vandalism was arrested as he could have harmed the communal harmony”.

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