Shimla: In Himachal Pradesh, priests of many rural temples have procured gun licenses for the protection of deities and precious jewellery as in past, many temples have been looted and in some cases, priests or the temple guards were killed.
In July 2013, armed burglars had not only stolen the precious idols and jewels worth several crores from Bachhunchh village of Rohru tehsil in Shimla district, but they had also killed the temple chowkidar. In last 10 years, burglars have striked in over 150 temples and monasteries of the state. In December 2014, Raghunatha temple heist had left the entire state shocked as priceless idols of Lord Raghunatha were stolen from the temple premises.
Kullu district is home to over 200 deities and dozens of thefts in temples here have been reported in the recent years. Now, government is encouraging temple authorities to install CCTV cameras and apply for arms license for security of the temple property.
Dabe Ram, kardar (caretaker) of Raghunath temple in Sainj, said “The ancient idols of the deities are very precious. Kathar (stockroom) of the temples stocks jewellery and cash, and we possess a gun only to protect the heritage,” he said. Dot Ram, kardar of Devi Darshani Warda temple in Kais, said possession of gun is necessary to keep the miscreants away from temple property. “We cannot afford theft of our ancient idols. The palanquins of our deities decorated with jewellery keep moving across the district round the year. Keeping a gun is a must for every temple authority,” he said.
Kullu Devi Devta Kardar Sangh, president, Dot Ram Thakur said kardars of the district had a meeting some time back and they discussed about stepping up security in the temples. “We talked about obtaining gun license, besides installing CCTV cameras in temple premises. Government is helping us in getting gun license with easy formalities. The most important thing is to have a valid certificate in training in operation, safety and handling of the gun,” he said.
“Many already have valid arms licenses while a few have applied. Nika Ram, kardar of Jamlu Devta temple in Anni, has fulfilled all the formalities and he will get his license soon,” Thakur added.
At present, 13 temple authorities have gun licenses in Kullu while a few more have applied. In Himachal Pradesh around 95,000 gun licenses have been issued to people in all 12 districts. and majority of these licenses have been issued for crop protection.
In reply to a question asked by Congress MLA Kuldeep Kumar, state government had informed the state assembly during monsoon session that temples managed by state government have total cash of Rs 2,84,26,27,495 besides over 1.30 quintals of gold and over 27.72 quintals of silver. These temples does not include temples of rural areas which is managed by the residents of respective villages and have huge wealth and precious idols.