Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor police arrested 10 persons for stealing and destroying a Nandi idol from a temple in a Dalit colony in Jagamarla village, believing that diamonds were embedded inside it.
Police arrested M. Venkata Chalapathi (43), K. Srinivasulu (34), K. Hari (34), B. Sridhar (27), G. Venkatesh (24), P. Dasaradaiah (40), G. Narasimhulu (60), K. Ranga Babu (40), D. Prakash (34) and B. Munendra (29).
On April 4, police received a complaint that the Nandi idol belonging to Vandana Malleswara Swamy temple, located in the Koundyana forest area near the Scheduled Tribes (ST) colony in Devalampeta locality of Jagamarla village in Palamaneru mandalam was stolen.
Acting on temple priest S. Narasimhulu’s complaint, police registered a case under IPC Section 379 and started investigation.
Around 6.30 p.m. on Saturday, police received a tipoff that five people were moving suspiciously in Jagamarla forest area, prompting the cops to round them up and question.
‘On questioning, they admitted that they decamped with the Nandi idol, believing that it had diamonds inside it. Another five more persons have been arrested as part of the probe,’ said a police official.
Chittoor superintendent of police (SP) S. Senthil Kumar said that Srinivasulu, also known as Ashwathama, belonging to Nagarkurnool district in Telangana and his local friend Hari from Kandada together went to check the idol on March 21, which they would eventually decamp with.
Kumar said on March 26, Srinivasulu dispatched Hari, who along with Chalapathi, Sridhar, Venkatesh and Ranga Babu stole the idol and hid it in a pond at Gangasagaram village belonging to one Munindra.
The treasure hunters planned to break open the idol on March 27 but one of the thieves, Ranga Babu, came with Prakash Naidu, Narasimhulu, Dasaradhayya and Gopi to steal it again from the place where it was hidden.
In the second theft of the idol, Ranga Babu and his accomplices stole it away to Poyya village in Thottembedu mandalam and buried it.
On April 2, they dug out the idol and hammered it into pieces to find no diamonds in it. Since abandoning the idol pieces will raise suspicion, they threw the Nandi pieces in Swarnamukhi river.
‘Gopi, who broke the idol into pieces died in a road accident three days ago while the remaining 10 accused have been arrested, along with the confiscation of an auto rickshaw, one Tata Ace, three two-wheelers and the idol pieces,’ he said.
This incident comes in light of several alleged temple attacks which already rocked the southern state.
Under the TDP government, 163 temple offences were reported in 2015, 139 in 2017, 123 in 2018 and 177 in 2019, when the government transitioned to the YSR Congress Party (YSRCP).
In 2020, a year which saw an uproar following the chariot burning at the Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple in Antarvedi, there were 143 alleged temple offences.