Armed bandits invade Freeport temple - pundit tied up, family robbed

Unaware that her family was being robbed, the two-year-old daughter of a pundit greeted one of the intruders and went to hug him. This innocent act of kindness did not stop the bandits from grabbing two gold bracelets off her tiny hand.

The robbery took place at around 2 am on the compound of the Lakshmi Narayan Temple in Freeport where Pundit Gajendra Kumar, a national of India, lives with his wife and children.

During the ordeal, which lasted about two hours, the armed and masked bandits stole approximately $35,000 in cash and about $85,000 worth of 22 carat gold jewelry from India from two vaults in the administration building of the temple. They also relieved the family of electronic devices, phones and jewelry and even helped themselves to beverages from a refrigerator.

Villagers and temple devotees, who gathered outside the temple as word spread about the incident, expressed shock and outrage that the robbers were daring enough to violate an area regarded as holy ground.

The temple, as well as an authentic Indian restaurant on the compound, opened as usual yesterday.

Temple president Seeta Mahabir said the robbers, who were armed with a gun, cutlass and crowbar, did not enter the temple itself. They gained entry by breaking through a door in the administration section, then tied up the caretaker and a female security officer.

“They ransacked the whole place and took his money then they moved to the spiritual head office and that’s where they found the vault. They took all of our money, then they went to the pundit’s house. They ransacked the house totally,” Mahabir said.Pundit Kumar and his family were asleep when the robbers broke into their quarters on the compound.

“They put a hand on his stomach and they say, ‘Wake up, is a hold up.’ They had gun to his head,” Mahabir said.

The pundit’s children, a twin boy and girl, were usually up at around that time to be fed. However, only the girl woke up, while her brother remained under a blanket on the bed.

According to Mahabir, who barely managed to contain her emotions, the toddler greeted the intruders and was going to embrace them when the bandits ordered her mother to put her back to sleep. They removed bracelets from the little girl’s hand.

The bandits tied up the pundit and his wife then plundered their home, taking their phones, jewelry, cash, a television and other electronic items.

“Everything is gone,” Mahabir said.

The money stolen from the temple vault was from last week’s sales at the restaurant.

No one was injured but the family was traumatised by the experience. It was the first time that the temple, which was established more than ten years ago, had been robbed. Mahabir said the Pundit Kumar, who did not speak to the media, is considering returning to India with his family.

“It is a violation of one’s right and a right to safety and it’s a very worrying situation,” she said.

Despite the ordeal, Pundit Kumar conducted Sunday service, which is broadcast live on 106.5 FM, from 9-11 am.

Freeport police are investigating.

Source: www.guardian.co.tt (Sascha Wilson)

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