Malda, Jan. 23: Gold and silver ornaments and cash were robbed from four temples in Malda last night, making this the third consecutive day when thieves targeted places of worship in this town.
The break-ins last night took the number of such incidents to 12 in three days. In neither case have police made any arrests.
Malda police superintendent Jayanta Pal has asked the Englishbazar police station to step up vigil across town. He also said "special steps" would be taken to prevent such incidents in the future.
Last night, thieves raided the 300-year-old Bura Kali Mandir in Kalitala, close to the Trinamul office of tourism minister Krishnendu Narayan Chowdhury.
The sebait (head priest) of the temple, Babu Bhattacharjee, said around 7am today his 12-year-old daughter, Pranita, went to open the lock of the temple's grille gate and found it broken. The temple is usually locked after evening pujas around 9pm, he said. "She raised the alarm. We rushed out and found all the ornaments of the idol missing. The collection box was also gone. There used to be gold and silver ornaments, set with precious stones adorning the idol. The huge silver khanra (chopper) that weighed nearly a kilogram was also taken," Bhattacharjee said.
Asked for details on the types of ornaments robbed, the priest said there were five gold chains studded with precious stones, gold and silver anklets and a gold tiara. There were other silver ornaments as well, he added.
The Kalitala temple break-in was only one of four last night.
At a place called Dakshin Baluchar, about half a kilometre from Kalitala, all ornaments and cash were taken from three small temples. Each temple is barely 100m from the other.
Cash and ornaments worth about Rs 1 lakh each were taken from two Kali temples. About Rs 4 lakh cash and jewellery were looted from a Manasa temple.
According to the complaints filed with Englishbazar police, in one Kali temple at Dakshin Baluchar, the thieves stole eight gold bindis, two gold bangles, a silver crown, a gold nose ring, gold earrings, a silver choker, a pair of silver anklets and Rs 500 in cash. In the other Kali temple, 150m from the first, five gold bindis, two gold nose rings, a pair of gold earrings, a silver crown, a silver waist band, two silver chokers and Rs 2,000 in cash were missing.
In the Manasa temple, located another 200 metres away, six gold bindis, a silver crown, four pairs of silver bangles, a silver statue of a five-headed cobra and Rs 300 in cash were stolen.
The first of the dozen thefts happened on Sunday night of which the police were informed the next morning. Five small temples were looted on Sunday night and four on Monday night.
According to police sources, an attempt to loot a temple belonging to the Shantibharati Parishad in the Bansbari area was thwarted on Monday night by guards who managed to chase the thieves away.
A flabbergasted district police chief said he found it hard to explain why this sudden looting spree was taking place. "I fail to understand why these thefts are taking place. There are always policemen on patrol each and every night. We will take special steps to prevent such incidents," Jayanta Pal said.
Minister Krishnendu, who is seeking re-election from Englishbazar in the February 23 bypoll, came to the kalitala temple this morning and sent for the police superintendent.
Around 8am, the inspector in charge of Englsihbazar police station, Dilip Karmakar, arrived at Kalitala with a large force.
"What is going on here? Thieves are looting temples at will and the police are not doing anything…. I will not listen to excuses, the culprits should be arrested and the ornaments recovered immediately," Krishnendu shouted.
Krishnendu wanted to know from the inspector-in-charge about the personnel deployed for patrolling and the duration of their duty hours. Karmakar said that three separate night patrols were on duty last night.