Jain idols: A heist and a recovery that fails to convince

Sep 06 2013, 15:10 IST
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15 antique idols stolen from temple; Inter-state trail leads to leading jewellers. 15 antique idols stolen from temple; Inter-state trail leads to leading jewellers.
Summary15 antique idols stolen from temple; Inter-state trail leads to leading jewellers.

The only way we can settle with him is if he returns the idols. Police have told us the remaining idols are with them,” said Swami Bhattarka, managing trustee of the shrine, adding, “Karnataka police told us Chhattisgarh is not cooperating in the probe.”

“Yes, I visited them, but not for a settlement,” Bardaiya told The Indian Express. “I told them we too are of the Jain community and have not committed any theft.” About Sancheti’s arrest, he said: “If anything was done, it was at his (Sancheti’s) end. We know nothing about it. We condemn the theft.”

Abhijit Jain, who belongs to the family of the temple trustees, said: “It’s not possible to evaluate the idols, but even the value of diamonds and precious metals taken on a carat basis should be not less than a few thousand crores. Add to it the antique value and you get an impossible figure.”

About the claim that eight idols have been recovered, Abhijit said, “Five have been melted down. We don’t really know if these were the idols or just molten metal.”

Raipur jewellers point at the YouTube video and junk the police claim. “Look at the video. The thief so carefully selected the idols; he wanted those specifically. Why would he melt them?” said a leading jeweller. “If melted, the invaluable and antique nature is lost and its worth is reduced to the price of the molten metal.” Had the idols still been with the arrested accused, the jewellers feel, these would have been recovered by now. “The idols are probably lost forever.” 

Demanding a CBI probe, the temple authorities have written to the prime minister, the President and Transport Minister Oscar Fernandes. “The main accused has given a statement to the police that he has sold the remaining idols to some jewellers in Chhattisgarh. The jewellers he has named are highly influential persons in Chhattisgarh. It has come to be known that the case has an angle of politics in Orissa and Chhattisgarh. Therefore the police team finds it difficult to lay hands on highly influential persons and subject them to interrogation. This has crippled the investigation and blocked the recovery of the stolen idols,” reads the September 4 letter by Swami Bhattarka to Fernandes.

“These are precious, invaluable idols, and now with wrong people. We do not want these to cross the Indian border.”

Status report

Found

Vasupujya Swamy in Padmasana, ruby

Munisuvrata Swamy,

blue sapphire

Chandraprabha Swamy in

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