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Thieves break into historic Saketri Shiv Mandir in Panchkula, steal jewellery worth Rs 30L

Police have registered an FIR of trespassing and theft. Six masked suspects were caught on CCTV cameras. The theft was reported by Buddhi Vallabh, a priest at the Durga Mandir.

Written by Saliq Parvaiz | Panchkula |
Updated: February 20, 2018 9:22:01 am
Police at the scene of crime at Saketri in Panchkula on Monday. (Express photo by Sahil Walia)

THIEVES BROKE into the historic Mahadev Shiv Mandir at Saketri village in Panchkula and decamped with gold, silver ornaments, including crowns, armlets, diadems, necklaces, nose rings and other jewellery, worth Rs 30 lakh, from several deities on Sunday night. Police have registered an FIR of trespassing and theft. Six masked suspects were caught on CCTV cameras.

The theft was reported by Buddhi Vallabh, a priest at the Durga Mandir. “When I came to open the gates of the Shiv Mandir at around 4:45 am, I saw the lock lying on the floor. Upon checking the other mandirs, I found that locks had been broken there, too. There are a total of seven shrines of various gods and goddesses inside the Mahadev Shiv Mandir complex and six of the temples were looted by thieves,” he said.

According to the CCTV footage, thieves broke in between 2:30 am and 3 am.

Kesho Ram Gupta, president of the Shiv Mandir Trust, told Chandigarh Newsline, “Ornaments, worth Rs 30 lakh, have been stolen from the temple. The thieves have stolen 16 silver decorative umbrellas, 16 crowns, 2 silver kalasha, 2 silver snakes and several other items of jewellery from the six temples.” He further stated that the thieves have also taken Rs 8,000 in cash that was to be paid to someone, from one of the temples, but left the donation boxes untouched.

The incident took place a few days after Shivaratri. The temple had organised a four-day function that day. “We feared that something like this might happen on Shivaratri but the entire function passed off seamlessly,” said a temple official, adding that all security precautions had been taken. “We had deployed men at all the gates of the temple and 32 CCTV cameras are installed at various places in the temple.”

But, when the incident happened, all the guards were asleep. “This has never happened. The guards are always alert and we have received no complaint against anyone regarding this. Don’t know what happened yesterday,” said Gupta.

The CCTV footage captured six persons breaking into the temple. “The footage shows six persons, faces covered, entering each temple and taking the jewellery off the effigies and putting them in bags,” said Gupta. The footage is being further analysed to find clues on the thieves, said the temple officials.

ACP Anshu Singla said, “We have registered an FIR and started investigation. The temple management did not mention the exact cost of the stolen jewellery. We have also informed the neighbouring police authorities about the incident. Efforts are on to identify the suspects, caught on CCTV cameras.”

The head priest of the temple, Ram Lal, said, “It is Monday today. Devotees from all over the city come here. And to hear that someone has stolen from the house of God is truly saddening. People who have devotion were upset at hearing the news.”

Devotees were shocked to see the effigies without ornaments. “I have been coming to this temple every Monday for the past 20 years now. This is the place where our wishes are fulfilled. How can someone steal from such a place?” said Sunita Gupta, a devotee.

Hansraj Sharma, an elderly man, who frequently visits the temple, said, “I was involved in the construction of the mandir. I made it with my own hands. This news has made me deeply sad.”

Officials believe that the thieves may have gained entry from a hill located next to the temple. “They couldn’t have entered through the gates because they stay locked. There is a hill at the back that is attached to the temple premises. We believe that thieves must have come down from there into the compound of the temple,” said an official, adding that traces of dirt, that may have skidded downhill when the thieves came, were also seen.

Talking about plugging the loopholes in security, Gupta said action would be taken against the guards. “We are now going to hire professional security who are capable of thwarting such incidents.” A case was registered at Mansa Devi police station.

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