Tirupati: Treasure hunters’ gangs, accompanied by self-styled swamis, involved in occult practices, have been on the prowl in Chittoor district in search of hidden treasures. These gangs are engaged in digging at secluded places deep inside the forests, forested temples, old and abandoned temples and now they shifted their focus on old houses.
It all came to light when a gang of treasure hunters were nabbed by the police at Mullangivaripalle village in Kalluru mandal while digging for hidden treasures at a house, owned by a woman identified as Eswari. The six-member gang, hailing from Hyderabad and Karnataka, struck a deal with a local youth, who threatened Eswari and helped the gang in carrying out excavation in her house. Eswari, however, gathered courage and complained to the police, who later arrested the gang of six people.
Two months ago, the Alipiri police arrested a 40-year-old treasure hunter and six others on charges of illegally digging a tunnel of 80 ft in search of ancient treasures hidden in the Seshachalam hillocks near BTR Colony in Tirupati. Believing the words of a self-styled guruji, the accused Manku Naidu, began digging the tunnel with the help of workers and using explosives a year ago. It is still a matter of surprise how Naidu could hoodwink police and locals for almost a year despite using explosives.
Not just these two incidents, several batches from the villages bordering Chittoor district, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Hyderabad, accompanied by self-styled swamis are undertaking digging at old and forested temples, caves and on the banks of rivulets deep inside the forest and now some select houses. Believing the words of self-styled swamis or tantriks that ‘lanke bindelu’ (vessels containing gold coins) dating back to centuries lay hidden in some places, these gangs are hunting for treasures.
“Self-styled gurujis or tantriks from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala are taking advantage of the weakness of treasure hunters. They target youth and gullible villagers by tempting them with treasures and lure them on the pretext of helping them to detect treasures. Such gangs are systematically defacing or vandalising several heritage structures and now they are selecting houses on innocent and gullible people,” a senior police officer said.
In a bid to curb defacing and vandalising of temples, the district police led by SP S. Senthil Kumar formed 2,241 village defence squads with 11,353 members in it and installed 4,526 CCTV cameras across the district.
“Taking a serious view of this, the district SP held several meetings with locals, village heads, pastors, temple priests and dargah organisers and involved them to protect the places of worship. We also mounted surveillance in all the forested villages and areas vulnerable to the activities of treasure hunters. Our teams are cracking the whip on treasure hunting gangs, leaving no chance for them to carry out illegal activities,” the police officer maintained....