Officials of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) on Thursday seized a 9 mm PAK pistol and more than 40 bullets from a devotee in Andhra Pradesh as he made his way to the top of the hill temple.
The pistol was discovered during a routine check at the Alipiri check post, halfway up the mountain, and the devotee was said to hail from Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu.
Addressing the media, TTD Vigilance and Security Officer E Ashok Kumar Goud said that the pistol was found in the devotee's bag.
“The gun holder was identified as R Deepak Vigneshwar, who came along with his family on a pilgrimage to Tirumala. The pilgrim and the seized pistol are being handed over to Tirumala Two Town police for further investigation,” the official told reporters.
The official also made it clear that carrying firearms to the holy shrine is prohibited even if the holder carries a license, and the move would attract criminal action.
Vigneshwar was detained and handed over to the Tirumala Two Town police, who registered a case under relevant sections of the Arms Act and were investigating the incident.
However, the family members of the devotee claimed that it was a non-lethal gas pistol, equivalent to a toy gun.
This is not the first time that such a security scare has occurred atop Tirumala.
In August last year, TTD officials recovered a loaded gun with six bullets during the security check from a man who was trying to enter the temple.
Tirumala Police had identified the detained person as Sudhakar from Thane. They recovered the weapon after checking his car.
Earlier that same week, during a similar security check, police recovered a gun with 14 bullets, along with alcohol (prohibited in the temple premises), from another man.
Both men were detained and a case was registered.