'Religious men' held with Rs 1 cr in stolen money

Money

Rescuers working to evacuate stranded pilgrims claim to have recovered over Rs 1 crore over the past two days from the last few batches to be airlifted, money that had apparently been looted from this devastated town.

The stolen jewellery and money, some of it in muddied and wet bundles of cash, amounts to Rs 1.25 crore and will be dispatched soon to the district magistrate by the NDRF and ITBP.

Officials said many of those trying to make away with the loot were religious men or "babas", and were only caught because of some alert troopers. Given the offerings made at temples in the holy town, cash to the tune of crores changes hands on a regular basis.

The single bank that serviced the town has been washed away, as is the case with the cash registers and strong boxes in most shops and establishments. While the presence of personnel at the main temple has kept it relatively safer, donation boxes and treasure chests at other temples have been forced open.

"What got us suspicious was that some babas lined up for evacuation had with them stacks of fresh, unused notes. A quick search revealed that the notes were all numbered and probably belonged to a bank," a rescue personnel said.

"One of the babas had

Rs 62,000 in cash hidden in a dholak (drum). Another had a packet of prasad that revealed Rs 10,000 in sequenced notes. One had sewn Rs 1.2 lakh into his clothes," another rescuer said. People are let off if the money appears to be their own —Being of different denominations, and appearing well used.

A veteran official almost broke down while talking about one religious man who had an unusually large number of rings and bangles on his hands. A search revealed more such ornaments on his person. "He confessed that he had robbed pilgrims, even cutting off the fingers of a few."

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