‘Treasure’ hunters on the prowl in Palamaner forests

Several batches of youth from the villages bordering the Chittoor district and Tamil Nadu, accompanied by self-styled swamijis involved in occult practices, have been on the prowl in the forests of Palamaner range since a couple of months, in search of ‘treasures’, resorting to digging at forested temples and on the banks of rivulets deep inside the forests.

It all came to light when two persons from Chennai suffered electric shock in the fields on their way to a forest location nearby at Kamsalonikunta hamlet under the Doddipalle beat of the Palamaner range, a fortnight ago.

During the police interrogation, it was revealed that the duo suffered electric shock from the clandestinely arranged cables meant for hunting wild boars. The victims informed the police that they were part of a treasure-hunters’ gang from Tamil Nadu, in collaboration with the local youth.

The gangs undertake digging at some select corners of the temples located inside the forests. There were rumours prevailing among the gangs hunting for treasures that vessels containing gold coins (lanke bindelu) dating back to centuries lay hidden in some of the temples in the forest areas. Some ‘tantriks’ from Chennai and surrounding areas have taken advantage of the weakness of treasure hunters, and joined them on the pretext of helping them to detect the treasures. The police said that these gangs were active in the forests of Palamaner, Baireddipalle, and Bangarupalem mandals.

Cause for concern

In addition to the menace of treasure hunters, the police are facing another major problem with the clandestine arrangement of live power cables across fields and forest fringes by some miscreants in search of wild boars. This activity is also causing a big concern to the forest personnel in view of the presence of over forty wild elephants in the Koundinya wildlife sanctuary, which take to crop raids frequently.

The risk of elephants facing electrocution in the sanctuary belt became more with death of six elephants in a span of one year.

Deputy SP (Palamaner) S. Arifulla told The Hindu that surveillance would be mounted in all the forested villages and border areas vulnerable to the activities of treasure hunters. “In the recent episode of two persons suffering electric shock near Palamaner, the condition of one of them is said to be critical, facing the risk of leg amputation. Some youth and gullible villagers of the inter-State region are falling prey to the lure of the fake swamijis, tempting them with treasures.

“By venturing into forests, they are risking their lives. Action will also be taken against the miscreants setting live cables in the fields and forest fringes. Our special teams are working to nab the treasure-hunter gangs in the border areas. One self-styled swamiji from Chennai is at large,” said the Deputy SP.

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