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Santiniketan theft prompts security rethink

March 26, 2004 16:26 IST

Authorities at the Visva Bharati University, from where Rabindranath Tagore's Nobel Prize and some other memorabilia were stolen, say they will reassess security.

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"We have to rethink about security measures provided for the (university) campus," Vice-chancellor Sujit Basu said. "Obviously security was not tight enough or else this wouldn't have happened."

With such valuable items around in Uttarayan, as Tagore's home inside the university campus is known, security was negligible to say the least.

Two National Volunteer Force personnel are entrusted with the responsibility of guarding the exhibits at the Rabindra Bhawan museum inside Uttarayan.

The university authorities allegedly ignored police's recommendation of setting up close-circuit cameras in the museum.

A burglary alarm installed many years ago also does not work, apparently because of lack of maintenance.

Though Basu admitted that security needed a rethink, Arup Sil, the university's security officer, holds that two armed men were enough to guard the museum because "no untoward incident had ever happened here."

Around 11 am on Thursday, security staff of Uttarayan noticed a broken window. They found that the robbers had made away with Tagore's Nobel Prize gold medal and the citation he won in 1913.

A gold pocket watch, gold medals, some ornaments belonging to Tagore's wife, Mrinalini Devi, and father Devendranath, some rare paintings, utensils and items made of ivory too were missing.

The police investigations have so far thrown up nothing.

Police are questioning the two security guards on duty on Wednesday night. Though the university officials said the heist could have taken place on Wednesday night, police aren't sure about this yet.

They said the robbery could have taken place earlier because the university was closed on Wednesday.

Fingerprint experts are at work, but police refused to say if they had gathered any significant evidence.

Visva Bharati university employees and students on Friday demanded that a CBI inquiry be ordered into the burglary.

The Calcutta high court has admitted a public interest litigation that claims security at the university was slack and holds the university authorities responsible.

M Chhaya in Kolkata