Police in Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district said that they cracked the case of a Nandi idol being damaged in a Shiva temple in Agaramangalam village of GD-Nellore mandal earlier this week. The incident which was reported on Sunday, came amid allegations of targeted attacks against Hindu places of worship in the state. District Superintendent of Police (SP) S Senthil Kumar revealed the facts of the case to the media on Wednesday.
The police found that the Nandi idol near the sanctum sanctorum of the temple was broken. A case was registered based on a complaint made by officials from the temple. During the course of investigation, officials found that the accused had broken the idol in order to procure treasure supposedly hidden under it.
According to SP Senthil Kumar, the case was investigated from two angles. One looked at a similar attempt to lift the Nandi idol last year by some miscreants while the other looked at the involvement of anti-social elements to create disturbance as part of a larger conspiracy, given the political scenario in the state.
The SP said that they had found the involvement of an inter-state gang of treasure hunters, who were carrying out such crimes, believing that there could be valuable treasure hidden under idols in temples.
Senthil Kumar said, "They were under the belief that some valuable items like gold were hidden under the stone idols. They used to try to move the idol from its original place and break it open to look for some treasures."
The police said that they have arrested eight members of the gang, who were produced before a local magistrate. Officials suspect that similar attempts were made by the gang in neighbouring Karnataka.
The SP said that the gang had conducted a recce of around seven to eight temples to carry out similar hunts. "In this specific incident, seven members of the gang were present. They lifted the Nandi idol and broke it, but since they found nothing, they left it aside."
Tools which were allegedly used for damaging and opening the temples, idols and busts were seized and produced before the media. The SP stated that the remaining accused members of the gang would be arrested soon.
The SP refuted reports by the media, which claimed that there were targeted attacks on temples in the state. Calling it an â€˜entirely wrong notionâ€™, he added, â€œWe were able to arrest the real culprits within two days."
The SP further stated that the specific incident would have been prevented if the management of the temple had installed CCTV cameras in its premises, and added that a drive is underway to ensure measures to protect religious places with involvement of stakeholders such as community leaders and temple committees.
Earlier this week, Director General of Police (DGP) Gautam Sawang said that there were "aggressive attempts to link all such incidents" to spin a narrative and emphasised that temple crimes are "standalone incidents".
The DGP was responding to the allegations of a section of political parties who alleged that a conspiracy behind such attacks on temples, citing a string of incidents that took place.