Pickpockets Strike Devotees Amid Ram Temple Rush, Cash, Phones Missing

Thousands have reached the holy city after the grand temple was thrown open to the public today after the consecration ceremony

Purnima, who has come from Canada, was among those targeted by pickpockets


Pickpockets are having a field day amid the huge rush of devotees at the newly opened Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Taking advantage of the massive crowds at the temple gates, the pickpockets are targeting handbags and pockets, and making away with cash and other valuables.

Thousands have reached the holy city after the grand temple was thrown open to the public today. Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday led the 'pran pratistha' or consecration ceremony at the temple. While the gates opened only at 7 am, devotees eager for 'darshan' had lined up since late last night.

Purnima has come all the way from Canada for a pilgrimage to Ayodhya. This morning, she turned up at the temple for a 'darshan' of Lord Ram. Making her way through the serpentine queues of devotees, she managed to pray before Ram Lalla's idol. But before she could cherish the memorable moments, she realised money from her handbag had gone missing. As she checked the bag, she found fine cuts, apparently made by a blade, and cash and other items missing.

"We can understand that the administration is not able to control the huge rush of devotees. But thieves must spare the devotees," she told NDTV, showing the gaping cuts in her handbag. Purnima said she was holding on firmly to the bag in the crowd, but the pickpocket managed to get the job done.

She is not alone. Her friend Prapti, a resident of Ahmedabad, accompanied her on the Ayodhya trip. Her sling bag's zip was opened, and her Aadhaar card, ATM card, driver licence and other documents stolen. She now fears that they may be misused. "I was holding my bag carefully. I have no clue how he managed to open the zip and take the documents," she said.

NDTV met several other pilgrims who have been targeted by pickpockets over the past two days and lost money and other items. Local residents suspect that a gang of criminals from outside the city may be behind the cases of theft.

"We are in Ayodhya since January 16. These thieves are not from Ayodhya. All auto-rickshaw operators, bus drivers and cab drivers we met here are so honest. We even left our luggage with them, but no item went missing. They (pickpockets) are not from here," she said.

She urged the administration to make proper arrangements at the temple so that devotees can proceed for the 'darshan' in proper queues and such incidents are prevented.

Another target, Kalyan from Andhra Pradesh, visited a cyber cafe near the temple to register an online complaint after his cellphone was stolen in the crowd.

The cyber cafe owner, Vinod, told NDTV that at least 20 people visited his shop over the past two days to register theft complaints. The stolen items, he said, included cash, wallets and cellphones. "A gang of thieves has come here and are targeting people," he said.