Andhra Pradesh's Chittoor district police on Wednesday arrested a gang of eight inter-state treasure hunters for desecrating a 'Nandi' idol outside an Abhaya Anjaneya temple near Abhayamangalam.With these arrests the police stopped a major arson planned across districts including in temples of Kanipakam, SR Puram, Tirupati, Kurnool, Mahanandi, Patthikonda and Guntur."The Chittoor wing of Andhra Pradesh police has successfully cracked the 'Chittoor Nandi desecration' case within 72 hours," said an official.The accused included a team of five youths from Karnataka, who were aided by three locals.Police arrested Kuruva Somasekhar, 24; M.S. Manikanta, 30; J.L. Naveen, 35; R. Saravanan, 30; S. Kiran Kumar, 39; M. Vikas, 34; Ashok Kumar, 57 and P. Peddabba, 35.Somasekhar is from Peddahoturu village of Aaluru mandal in Kurnool district; Saravanan is from Palace Road in Kuppam in Chittoor district and Peddabba from Pichigulla House, Pandiguttur village, Mudigolam of Irala mandalam in Chittoor.The other five hail from places such as Tumkur, Tiptur and Bijapur in neighbouring state Karnataka.On Sunday, a local from Abhayamangalam reported the idol of 'nandi' (the cow accompanying Lord Shiva) having been desecrated by some unknown people. On receipt of this complaint, GD Nellore police station officials registered an FIR and set three teams in motion to nab the culprits.
After two days, police received a tip-off that some treasure hunters were hiding at Kanipakam mandalam on Wednesday.Police rushed to the location and arrested all the eight gang members.On interrogating them, police found that the arrested five from Karnataka had researched on the Andhra temple and spoken to locals about them, enquiring about the presence of hidden treasures in those temples."In the meantime, those who came in from Karnataka found local partners to collaborate with. The accused went to the extent of going on a recce before finalising the plan and executing the same," he said.Shockingly, they even made a list of temples and readied plans to execute similar treasure hunts in those ancient temples after this crime.They zeroed in on temples in Kanipakam, SR Puram, Tirupati, Kurnool, Mahanandi, Patthikonda and Mantralayam, as well as a few more spread across Ananthapur and Guntur districts.Meanwhile, Chittoor Superintendent of Police, S. Senthil Kumar, clarified that this incident was not a targeted one."People tried to project this incident as a targeted attack due to the negligence of the police which is entirely false. In this case, we traced the accused within two days of registering the case," said Kumar.Cognizant of the charged atmosphere of religious politics raging in the southern state, Kumar said the police department has taken up a massive drive to secure all religious places."Have asked all the managements to install CCTVs. Had the management of this temple also taken that initiative, this incident could have been prevented," the SP said.Post Antarvedi Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Swamy temple chariot blaze, religious politics are raging in Andhra Pradesh, a state which has been immune to such developments and renown for communal harmony.