//Alarm bells to end thefts in Himachal temples

Alarm bells to end thefts in Himachal temples

03 Mar 2006 # IANS

Shimla: The Himachal Pradesh government is planning to install alarm bells in temples to end growing thefts of idols and other valuables from the shrines.

To start with, the police will fix these gadgets in Shimla district and later in the entire state. The alarms will be set off if someone attempts to carry away the idols or other valuables from the temples, said a senior police official.

The government had some years ago registered 200 Hindu and Buddhist temples and 300 idols across the state. But this is thought to be only a fraction of the state’s temples heritage that often remains unguarded.

The temples usually have gold- and silver- plated idols, along with antique valuables, musical instruments and palanquins to carry the idols of the deities.

Currently, a fresh survey is on to identify temples in the state and to estimate the worth of the jewellery and other valuables stored in them.

The Kullu valley alone is estimated to have 300 temples.

Besides the well-known religious sites in the lower hills of the state, there are hundreds of smaller village temples in the mid-hills that face the risk of robbery.

"These hooters (alarm bells) will be installed not only in known temples but also at temples in remote villages. On an average, a village temple has at least Rs.250,000 worth of valuables," Anand Pratap Singh, a senior police official here, told IANS.

There have been three major temple thefts in Shimla district in the last year, including that of a 1,100-year-old stone idol of the Hindu god Ganesh.

The 22-kg idol was taken away from the Hatkoti temple, some 100 km from here, last month.

Across the state, there have been around 20 major thefts in the last 15 years. The police suspect a gang of international smugglers.

The most notable was the theft of the Buddha idol valued at Rs.50 million from the tribal Kinnaur valley in 1994. It was found in New Delhi after the Indian government sought the help of Interpol.