Raiders of misplaced idols

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Raiders of lost idols

2022-11-12 18:27:55

Within the final yr or so, the Idol Wing CID effected a sequence of recoveries of high-value vintage bronzes, temple stone idols and artefacts that had been stolen from throughout the State, and traced different helpful antiques to international galleries and museums. This has been welcomed by historians and native residents who’ve been reunited with their temple idols after years. Nevertheless, the investigations haven’t solely uncovered a nexus between smugglers and a few temple authorities, but additionally the police

Within the final yr or so, the Idol Wing CID effected a sequence of recoveries of high-value vintage bronzes, temple stone idols and artefacts that had been stolen from throughout the State, and traced different helpful antiques to international galleries and museums. This has been welcomed by historians and native residents who’ve been reunited with their temple idols after years. Nevertheless, the investigations haven’t solely uncovered a nexus between smugglers and a few temple authorities, but additionally the police

Almost six years in the past, a uncommon, emerald lingam (maragadha lingam), was reported lacking from the Thyagaraja Swamy temple, which falls underneath the Thirukkuvalai police station limits. The native residents had forgotten this lingam, and the few who nonetheless remembered the theft nurtured no hopes of recovering it. Till January 2022. Till the revamped Idol Wing CID discovered new expertise and vitality and launched itself into an effort for restoration.

Three groups of officers from the Idol Wing CID have been shaped, to scout for leads. The investigation officer obtained a clue from an informant who reported that somebody was seen performing poojas on an idol on the outskirts of Thanjavur. The group began to search for an individual becoming the outline of the person who was noticed with the idol. They narrowed down their search to seven individuals who match the invoice, and after the elimination course of, they deduced that one man, Arun Baskar possessed the idol and was primarily based in Arulananda Nagar, Thanjavur. When the Idol Wing officers landed at his home and confronted him about the maragatha lingam, he initially feigned ignorance however later capitulated and knowledgeable them that the lingam was saved at his financial institution locker. 

An emerald lingam that was confiscated from a family in Thanjavur

An emerald lingam that was confiscated from a household in Thanjavur
| Picture Credit score: Particular Association

Director Common of Police, Idol Wing CID, Ok. Jayanth Murali stated: “That was a serious catch at the start of this yr. The group recovered the maragatha lingam from the locker. We have been in a position to accumulate proof to determine that it had been stolen from the temple. The one that possessed it had claimed that he inherited it from his ancestors.” A gemmologist estimated the lingam to be value a number of hundred crores, and it was restored to the unique custodian of the lingam, Dharmapuram Adheenam, which manages the temple.

That may transform the proverbial starting of an energetic yr for the Idol Wing. The Wing went on to hint, in action-movie fashion races throughout a number of nations, and generally, with the help of the web, different vintage items and idols that the true possessors had misplaced hope of recovering, and in addition initiated motion to convey them again to their rightful temples.

Even a misplaced guide traced

Yet one more main breakthrough within the investigations by the Idol Wing was tracing a valuable guide — the primary Tamil translation of the Bible, which reportedly was stolen from well-known Saraswathi Mahal Library, Thanjavur, in 2005. On October 10, 2005, then Deputy Administrator of the Serfoji Palace filed a grievance on the Tanjore West Police station alleging the theft of the vintage Bible, which was translated and printed by missionary Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg in 1715 at Tharangambadi. The case was closed by the native police citing that it was not traceable. The case was then reopened by the Idol Wing and reinvestigated from the start. After a number of days of searching by means of a number of web sites of varied museums overseas, the officers chanced on the gathering of George III in London, and steps have been taken to recuperate it.

In one other case, for almost half a century, three unique vintage steel idols — of Vishnu, Sridevi and Bhudevi belonging to the Venugopala Swamy Temple, Alathur, Mannargudi Taluk, had been lacking. Nevertheless, the case was formally reported solely in 2017 by the Hindu Non secular and Charitable Endowments Division, authorities of Tamil Nadu. Investigation led the sleuths to the LACMA Museum, Los Angeles, United States. Additional investigations revealed that that the idols of Yoganarasimha, and Ganesha belonging to the identical temple had been displayed on the Nelson-Atkins Museums, Kansas, U.S..  

Six beautiful Chola-era bronze idols that went lacking from the Veeracholapuram temple, in Kallakurichi district within the Sixties, have been noticed on the Cleveland museum and Christie’s public sale home within the U.S. Equally, a bronze sculpture of Chola queen Sembiyan Mahadevi which was stolen almost a century in the past, from a nondescript village temple in Nagapattinam district, was traced to the Freer Gallery in Washington, due to Idol Wing personnel, who used the documentation out there with the IFP (French Institute of Pondicherry) to base their search.

Director General of Police, Idol Wing CID K. Jayanth Murali (left) and Inspector General of Police, R. Dhinakaran inspecting idols seized from Swami Malai

Director Common of Police, Idol Wing CID Ok. Jayanth Murali (left) and Inspector Common of Police, R. Dhinakaran inspecting idols seized from Swami Malai
| Picture Credit score: VEDHAN M

The officers of the Idol Wing themselves, measure every restoration, or tracing of a stolen idol as a victory, a hard-won victory. Mr. Jayanth Murali stated, “We’ve got this yr traced greater than 50 idols to international components, which is a report 500% greater than any yr. This yr now we have introduced again 10 idols, in whole: solely 22 idols have been recovered by the Idol Wing since 2012. We’ve got, in truth introduced again 11 idols however a Hanuman idol has not been handed over to us. If we get that again to Tamil Nadu, this yr alone we’d have introduced again 50% of all of the idols retrieved up to now by the Wing, in only one yr. And within the final three months, now we have initiated steps underneath the (Mutual Authorized Assistant Treaties) MLAT for bringing again 60 different idols from overseas.” 

Overseas, and in India

Aside from tracing stolen vintage idols on international soil, many idols have been seized in India as nicely, particularly contained in the State. Metallic/stone idols have been seized from Chennai, Kumbakonam, Mamallapuram, Auroville and Puducherry when possessors have failed to provide any report of possession or an antiquity certificates.

R. Dhinakaran, Inspector Common connected to the Idol Wing, stated, “All operations are performed by us after getting supply data. We deploy decoys from our group to strategy the vendor. After an excessive amount of effort, we convey the vendor into our internet. A part of our potential to persuade the vendor that we’re genuinely within the product is to point out them proof of cash. Thereafter, with out informing the native police, now we have to catch them within the act of displaying the idol.”

“There are two forms of antiques that we’re seizing. Firstly, from individuals are should not have any report for the due possession, as a result of ignorance or not getting the paperwork after they purchase it. One other class is antiques which are offered by individuals who know it’s unlawful to promote and not using a correct licence,” Mr. Dhinakaran defined. 

Over 100 circumstances registered in previous decade

The Idol Wing CID seized a Nataraja Idol in Sathangadu near Manali

The Idol Wing CID seized a Nataraja Idol in Sathangadu close to Manali
| Picture Credit score: VEDHAN M

The Idol wing, since 2012, has registered 103 circumstances of which 53 circumstances have been registered over the last one yr and have seized greater than 1,539 idols. Over the past one yr, eight circumstances have resulted in convictions for the accused. 

S. Vijay Kumar, artwork fanatic and co-founder of India Delight stated, “Tamil Nadu has been a uncommon shining gentle within the battle towards illicit antiquities in comparison with different States. You simply have to take a look at the restitution of stolen idols. Amongst the achievements, you can even rely securing main convictions for smugglers, particularly within the Subhash Kapoor case.

Worldwide vintage seller Subash Chandra Kapoor and his six associates have been convicted and sentenced to jail for phrases ranging between 10 years and 14 years for housebreaking and the unlawful export of 19 vintage idols valued at above ₹94 crore, to the Artwork of the Previous Gallery, New York. Kapoor additionally offered the stolen idols to varied museums and personal artwork collectors internationally. 

Kapoor was detained by the German police on October 30, 2011 at Cologne Airport, primarily based on a Purple Nook Discover issued by the Interpol. He was handed over to the Idol Wing-CID Police, Chennai in July, 2012 when Pon Manickavel was Direcot Common of Police of the Idol Wing, and extradited to India to face costs within the case, given that he be tried in just one case.

Apparently, Subash Kapoor has already served 10 years in jail and refused to pay the high-quality of ₹7,000 imposed by the trial court docket. He’s presently lodged in Central Jail, Tiruchi  

The Pazhavoor story of complicity

Former Inspector General of Police A.G. Pon Manickavel

Former Inspector Common of Police A.G. Pon Manickavel
| Picture Credit score: VEDHAN M

The investigation into the theft of 13 idols of from Narumbunatha Swamy Temple, Pazhavoor, Tirunelveli district, was the case that introduced Subash Kapoor behind bars, however its investigation revealed a steamy pot boiler involving not solely smuggling, but additionally complicity by police, bribery and, homicide.

The 17-year-old case was difficult and difficult for investigators, and later it emerged that sniffing the smuggling community, an Inspector and his sub-ordinates connected with Idol Wing, have been on the payroll of Subash Kapoor.

Police sources recounted: “There was fixed strain from the cops of the time demanding bribes. An artwork seller he labored with, Deenadayalan exerted undue strain on Kapoor and informed him that he would spill the beans except he returned the idols to him. He stated he was not in a position to give pay the police safety cash. Failing this, he would inform the police about Kapoor.”

Deenadayalan and Subash Kapoor had parleys in Bangkok, Thailand and reached an amicable settlement to return the idols. They introduced again the idols through air from Bangkok, Hongkong and Kathmandu, to keep away from customs authorities. They routed them to Kolkata the place Deenadayalan obtained them and introduced them to Chennai airport, and saved them in his artwork gallery.

Three officers of the Idol Wing, Jeevandham, Khader Basha and Mohammed Kasif, reportedly got here to an understanding with Deenadayalan and seized 4 idols, which they claimed have been returned to the temples by the top of 2016. Through the trial, nonetheless, the witnesses together with Giri, son of Deenadayalan and Mansingh, his supervisor, turned hostile and informed the court docket that such a seizure was by no means made.

Sensing bother, the trial was stopped in 2016 and the case was reinvestigated by then Inspector Common of Police Pon Manickavel himself. His investigation introduced proof to the costs that the Idol Wing officers have been complicit.

Kader Batcha, a serving Deputy Superintendent of Police, who was Inspector of Police with the Idol Wing thenn, was arrested in 2019 for colluding with the accused. The previous officer in his flip, levelled allegations towards Mr. Manickavel charging him with having favoured Deenadayalan. Although Mr. Manickavel denied all costs, the Madras Excessive Courtroom ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the theft from the Palavur case. Not too long ago, the CBI re-registered a First Data Report (FIR) within the case.

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