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Some posts of friends on burglary

From: M K Sudarshan (
Date: Sat Jan 25 1997 - 02:03:47 PST

Dear friends,
I am grateful to some of you who have reacted to the news of burglary in a
temple in Chenai.

Many friends have also sent me private mails and offered very interesting
views a sample of which I give below:

"...Why be saddened by buglarly.  Does The Lord care about these worthless
>material things.  It is we who are caring about this.
>The only thing he cares is Our devotion to Him.
>So why worry .  It is all His will "

Another friend posted as follows:

"...Ever since I read about the incident in Mylapore Vedanta Desikar's temple 
I was thinking of this. Sri sudarshan's anguish further encourages me to 
write this."

"...erudite members of this group could please contribute their ideas and
hopefully we may come out with some suggestions to protect our invaluable

Another view posted was as follows:

"...I was very disturbed when I read that other temples (that too ones that
are so sacred to us) were also burglarized. I know that in "Karma" theory,
the consequences of your actions need not manifest themselves right away.
But, sometimes it really "burns" you up to know that that people are getting
away with these kinds of atrocities, and worse, committing them again."

Dear friends, it is overwhelming to see such responses as above which seem
to range in nature from anguish to indignation.

Sri.P.B.Anand has raised very pertinent points in his post on this incident.
Many key issues are raised by him related to temple security, audit and
inventory of temple treasury, need for ornamentation of deity and the
responsibility of administrators, the laity and the temple ecclessiastes.

I suspect that all these issues may have been already and wisely addressed
by  'AgamA-s' of temple-traditions like the "pAncharAtra" or the
'vaikhAnasa'. Perhaps some scholar on this list can enlighten us all about it ?

Be that as it may, there is no doubt that some of our temple-Administrations
in India known to languish for funds to even perform "nitya-arAdhana-s" will
never be able to afford hi-tech security systems like CCTVs, electronic
alarms systems etc. (After the jewels have been burgled, it may well be the
turn of such CCTVs itself !!)

It seems to me, however, that temple-Administrations can be made to be a
little more accountable for their custodial functions in a more
'transparent' manner than at present. A yearly public-audit may not be out
of place where proper inventory is taken and report filed on temple
property; management declarations and representations with regard to due
diligence are taken on public record; independent certification of
internal-control procedures of temple-functioning is sought from duly
appointed authorities; duties and roles of officiating temple staff are duly
reviewed by a competent authority, necessary insurance-policies are arranged
and maintained etc..

I even presume all the above are adequately provided for in prevailing
statutes that pertain to the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments
(HR&CE) in India. 

All the above ideas, however, do not seem to be working, dear friends,
because there is utter lack of vibrant public involvement in India today in
these matters. There is nobody (everyone seems to have migrated to the US or
the Gulf, perhaps !) to raise the issue of unapprehended 'temple-burglars'
in the T.Nadu State Legislative Assembly even after five years of such
incidents in Sri Rangam!! Nobody, leave alone our MPs or MLAs, cares really
if the culprits are yet to be brought to book !! How many "letters to the
Editors" of newspapers in India appear registering protest against tardiness
in recovering temple property ? How many associations are there to follow-up
on these things with the Police authorities and create the right note of
strident public uproar ? There are today militant Consumer Protection groups
in India (taking a leaf out of their US counterparts like Ralph Nader's)
which will fight tooth-and-nail on behalf of common housewives complaining
about detergent-soaps that wear away the fragile beauty of their dainty
hands, but sadly, there are no such associations to drag the Police
Department to courts for their long-standing failure to solve "mysteries" of
grand larceny committed in temples !! Nobody knows, because nobody has
attempted it, if a public-interest litigation suit (PIL) can be filed
against the Police authorities for lagging behind in bringing to justice
these instances of criminal plunder !

It is not lack of "systems" of security or audit, I think, which is
contributing to the spate of crimes against temples in India, dear
'bhAgavatOttamA-s', but sheer public apathy which is the prime cause.

People don't simply seem to care, anymore !! Period.

In contrast, I wonder what would happen in France if ever there was as much
as a piece of silver missing from say the Notre Dame Cathedral !! Or what
would happen in Italy if there was as much as smudge on the walls of the
Sistine Chapel ! Imagine the public outcry there would be !!

It is in the context of such public apathy in India that we NRIs must ponder
if there is anything we can do to create a public-spirited "pressure-group"
in India to subserve the interests of our temples and traditions. We must
create a "watch-dog" agency to sniff out instances where 'secular'
authorites are lax in carrying out their stated duties to protect the
interests of temples and religious institutions. We need such an agency to
ensure through all means -- legal as well as political -- that there is
somebody ultimately held ACCOUNTABLE for acts of crime against not just
against a temple but against a whole "way of life" of our people ! 

There is nothing "militantly irreligious" in this idea of mine as far as I
can see.

What do you all feel, dear friends ? Please do let me know.

As for me personally, dear friends, yes, I am deeply saddened by the
burglary.I have spent a greater part of my life in Chennnai. I have
frequently worshipped the Lord in that Temple and hence can't help a heavy
sense of loss over what has happended there.

The idol of Lord Rama which the Saint Thyagaraja worshipped all his life was
once thrown by his brother into the tributary of the River Cauveri at
Tiruvaiyaru. The Saint too was saddened by the incident and poured out his
despair in several songs we enjoy today.

My sadness is that the Lord has not gifted me with the capacity to feel in
my heart even a wee bit of the intense pain that souls like Sri.Thyagaraja
underwent under circumstances similar to the incident in Mylapore a few days

In a few more days I too will forget all about the incident and my present
sadness too will pass quickly and become mere, vague memory.... 

And that too is cause for my sadness, dear friends.