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Home > Business > PTI > Report

Ayodhya: CBI probe sought into idol thefts

May 30, 2007 15:10 IST

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More news: UP

Alarmed by a recent spurt of thefts of old idols in Ayodhya, the Uttar Pradesh Culture Dhas demanded a CBI probe into the 'conspiracy'.

The Culture Department has written to the Home Department, expressing its concern over the thefts and demanded a CBI probe into the issue.

In the letter, recently sent to the state government, the Culture Department said, 'The thefts have been taking place in old temples at regular intervals but of late there has been a spurt of these incidents'.

The letter adds, 'The local police do not have the expertise to investigate the cases in which organised interstate gangs may be involved'.

According to an official of Ayodhya Research Institute, between March 2005 and March 2006, 24 cases of thefts were reported. Between March 2006 and March 2007, over 20 cases were recorded, in which 56 idols were stolen.

Unfortunately, four incidents of theft have taken place in March-April,2007 of which none has been solved.

Some of the thefts have robbed the temples of their place in history.

In Begunganj, an old Muslim lady had set up a Ram temple and got an eight-metal idol installed in 1850. "The idol was stolen eight months ago but the police could not recover it as yet," another official said. 

According to A P Gaur, assistant director, Department of Culture, who is now stationed at Ayodhya, most of the 3000-odd temples (excluding the household temples) in Ayodhya had idols made of eight metals (asthdhatu), brass, bronze, copper and black stone.

Quite a large number of these idols were over 200 years old.

"Thefts of idols in the temples have been common in Ayodhya-Faizabad zone. There has been a recent spurt but we are investigating all the cases," said A K Asthana, city superintendent of police, Ayodhya.

An investigating officer who made a breakthrough in a two-year-old idol theft case said the thefts would not be possible without the help of temple insiders.

"In most cases, either the priests are involved or the theft had taken place due to rivalries between two temple heads," he said.

The stolen idols that were sold outside became difficult to recover as the metal was melted quickly after it changed hands. 

Gaur, who is also responsible for implementing the Antiquities Act by registering the idols, further said, "Often the temple heads are not willing to register the idols under the act on some plea or other. We are carrying out a campaign asking priests and Mahants to cooperate in notifying the idols with the Antiquity Registrar and get a certificate."

This exercise would at least help the department to keep a record of the antiquities in Ayodhya and put pressure on the police to recover the lost idols.

Vijay Ram Das, 52-year-old Mahant of Ram Janki temple was dumbstruck when he walked into a sprawling century-old temple complex on the morning of April 4.

That day he found the sanctum-sanctorum ransacked by invaders and at least 21 of the idols were missing.

Similarly on March 31, Lallu Pandit, priest of Thakur Ramjanki temple in Dilidarwaja, just 3 km from Ayodhya's Ramjanmabhumi premises, was shocked when he found the temple's gate broken and a precious 200-year-old brass idol missing from the temple.

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