Police in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh are baffled by two missing expensive saris and a set of diamond bangles that were gifted to presiding deities of three famous temples. One of the saris was gifted by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao, and CMs of both states have ordered inquiries. However, cops have been left in a fix as in spite of CCTV cameras in the three temples, footage of the time when the gifts disappeared is missing, which is another mystery.
On Sunday, a hand-woven silk saree presented at the famous Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada disappeared within minutes after it was adorned and taken off the presiding deity. The saree was specially ordered from the famous weavers of Madanapalle by a couple near Guntu. U Vasundhara said that she paid Rs 20,000 for it. “We presented the saree Sunday afternoon and the priest put it over the idol. It was removed and kept aside after a few minutes. When we went to collect it, it had disappeared. It is very disappointing as we suspect that it is an inside job. People come with a lot of faith and the temple custodians cheat devotees,’’ she said.
An angry Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu chided the Kanaka Durga Temple Trust Board chairman Y Gauranga Babu for mismanaging affairs in the temple and bringing disrepute to it. A probe has been ordered. The Trust Board informed the Vijayawada police but has not lodged a formal complaint yet. Inspector K Vishwanadh said that he took statements of temple authorities present inside at the time of the incident. “CCTV footage is not available of the time the incident occurred. There is some black and white footage from an old analog camera but it is of no use. They did not lodge a complaint as they are conducting their own internal inquiry. Maybe they will lodge complaint on Wednesday after they conclude who may have stolen it,’’ Inspector Vishwanadh said.
Sources in the AP Endowments Department said that the preliminary inquiry pointed the needle of suspicion towards Trust Board member K Suryalatha Kumari. “She was present inside the sanctum sanctorum at the time of the incident. Two witnesses including a priest have said that they heard her asking a priest to hand over the saree saying that it may fall down and get dirty, and they saw it being handed over to her. In fact, the chief priest apparently chided the junior priest for handing over the saree to her instead of the official who is the real custodian of all gifts. The saree never reached the counter where the custodian records all gifts,’’ a source said.
When contacted, Suryalatha said that she did indeed take possession of a saree but it was not the one that is in question. “Clothes presented to the deity were falling on the ground. When I saw that a saree was about to fall, I asked the priest to hand it over to me. But the saree in my possession is a silk yellow saree while the saree that has disappeared is of pink colour of which I have no knowledge,’’ she said.
However, on Tuesday afternoon, Trust Board chairman Y Gauranga Babu, suspended Suryalatha pending the investigation. Sources said that while temple authorities were searching for the saree, Suryalatha had gone home for an hour to have lunch.
In Telangana, CM K Chandrashekar Rao ordered an inquiry after a silk saree he presented on May 2, 2016, to Kaleshwaram Temple in Jayshankar Bhupalpally district disappeared. The matter came to light recently on July 23. “The original saree gifted by the CM was stolen and someone replaced it with a cheap fake. D Hari Prakash Rao, a former executive officer of the temple, was suspended for dereliction of duty,’’ an official of Telangana Endowments Department said. An official at Mahadevpur Police Station said that there were no CCTV cameras in the area from where the saree disappeared. A temple worker was arrested on suspicion and efforts are on to trace the saree.
An audit at the famous Dharmapuri temple in Jagtiyal district of Telangana on July 24 revealed that a set of diamond-studded bangles worth Rs 6 lakhs presented by an NRI in February 2016 were also missing. Officials said that there is no CCTV footage as cameras were not working at that time.