Canada: Priests, devotees scared as temples vandalised, burgled in Toronto area

Priests and devotees at temples in the Greater Toronto Area are in a state of fear after cash stolen from donation boxes and even ornaments adorning idols stolen.
The Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga, which is among the temples in the Greater Toronto Area that were broken into within the last ten days. (Source: Hindu Heritage Centre)
The Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga, which is among the temples in the Greater Toronto Area that were broken into within the last ten days. (Source: Hindu Heritage Centre)
Published on Feb 06, 2022 01:08 PM IST
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ByAnirudh Bhattacharyya I Toronto

Priests and devotees at temples in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) are in a state of fear as half-a-dozen such places of worship have been vandalised and burgled over the past ten days, with cash stolen from donation boxes and even ornaments adorning idols stolen.

These incidents targeting temples started on January 15, with an unsuccessful break-in at the Shri Hanuman Mandir in the GTA town of Brampton. Undeterred, the miscreants appear to have gone on a rampage since then.

On January 25, another temple in Brampton, the Maa Chintpurni Mandir, was broken into, with a series of similar episodes being reported in the days following at the Gauri Shankar Mandir and Jagannath Temple, both in Brampton, as well as the Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga and the Hamilton Samaj Temple.

At the Hindu Heritage Centre (HHC) in Mississauga, the incident occurred on January 30, as two individuals broke in and rummaged through donation boxes and ransacked the main office. “Devotees and priests have been left traumatised with this incident,” a release from the temple said.

Each of these break-ins, according to security camera images shared with the Hindustan Times, appear to involve two persons and they have taken place between 2 and 3am. Images of the intruders show masked individuals in winter gear, with a backpack, and they appeared to spend a fair amount of time within the temple premises, searching for cash in donation boxes or other valuables like jewellery adoring the deities.

The release from the Hindu Heritage Centre in Mississauga said, “Peel Police have confirmed to Hindu Heritage Centre that it is the same group of individuals who are breaking into temples early morning.”

The temple has enhanced security with volunteers taking graveyard shifts to safeguard the premises. “Police have also promised to increase patrols around the temple. The community is very shocked and appalled with the high number of break-ins at temples,” the statement said.

“I feel scared when preparing for early morning prayer and keep looking around to make sure no one is there. I turn on all the lights and make sure to look out the windows before opening the temple,” Pandit Yadu Nath Sharma of the HHC said.

Devotees are equally concerned. As one of them Shubham Bharadwaj said, “I am very disheartened to hear about temples being broken into. I was very surprised to see this type of activity happening in Canada. With the number of temples broken into in a short time, this is becoming a serious law and order issue that I hope the police will be able to solve soon.”

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