ABOUT 33 places of worship, including 25 temples, four gurdwaras, two mosques, one church and one dargah have been burgled in the last five years. Police managed to arrest 16 people involved in some of these crimes in previous years, and so far, six of the accused have been convicted.
Police say temples and other places of worship are soft targets. Security is not tight, the cash box is right up in front, and other valuables such as ornaments are also displayed openly. Hindu temples are the most attractive, with their emphasis on ornamentation of idols, and multiple donation boxes.
“Places of religious worship are the easiest targets for thieves. Everybody has easy access to cash boxes installed at the shrines. They can easily understand the plan of these places, exits, entries during visits posing as devotees,” said a Crime Branch police officer.
While the community expects the police to prevent these incidents, the police advice to the management is to adopt modern safety equipment including siren alarm-cum-sensor system.
The police officer said CCTV cameras had become “routine” and thieves know how to fix them to avoid being captured on the cameras.
“Such gangs never strike at a place to which they belong and where they might be easily identified or recognised. We believe the gang active in Chandigarh is from another state,” the police officer said.
Offering little hope of a breakthrough and arrests, the officer instead predicted that going by the pattern, there will be more such incidents but after a time lag.
“The gang will now strike after a gap of one or two months. The way in which they burgled five temples in a row indicates that there is no chance of another strike by this gang in the immediate future,” he said.
The statistics of burglaries, especially in worshiping places procured from the police department state that the majority of thefts in holy places were reported between 2014 and 2015. About 13 incidents out of 28 were reported in these two years.
In 2014, thieves targeted seven temples and one gurdwara. In 2015, three temples, one gurdwara and one church were targeted. In 2016, one temple and a mosque were targeted. In 2017, five places of worship — three temples, one gurdwara and one mosque — were targeted.
For two thefts in 2017, at Sai Mandir in Sector 29 on June 23, and at Guga Mari Temple, Sector 36, on July 4, the police arrested the culprits and most of the stolen jewellery and cash was recovered from their possession.
The theft at Sai Mandir in Sector 29, in which one masked man with the assistance of two others, who did not enter the place, stole around Rs 8 lakh, was cracked by a team of Operations Cell headed by Inspector Narinder Patial.
The Jama Masjid in Sector 20 was burgled on May 20, 2016. A Catholic Church in Sector 19 was burgled in January 2015.
Abdul Rehman Chisti, chairman of Jama Masjid, Sector 20, told Chandigarh Newsline, “The thief entered the mosque and tried to escape when our of one watchmen raised the alarm. Our guards managed to catch him and handed him over to police station, Sector 19, and an FIR was registered against him. He was awarded imprisonment of six months. The thief confessed his crime in the court. However, in the wake of recent burglaries in temples, we are also taking security measures such as installing cameras and appointing guards. We condemn the burglaries at the shrines. The police authorities should crack these cases as soon as possible for restoring the faith of the common man”.