Mangalore, Oct 5, 2013: Dakshina Kannada district has been proving a haven for burglars in the recent times. The burglaries t have not even spared religious shrines That umpteen number of shrines have been targeted in the past few months reveal that the security cover to the shrines are highly insuffice. The CCTV cameras too have not deterred the culprits from looting shrines, which are by no means less than a treasure house.
Of all the burglary cases, one major case where the thieves in a well-engineered move stole several invaluable idols from the Siddantha Darshana Mandir at Moodbidri, continues to remain a mystery even after the police arrested four and recovered some of the stolen idols. That this network of stealing antique idols spans over at least four states, makes the case even more complicated for the police probing the case. Prior to the Siddantha Mandir theft, there were two burglaries of shrines, the first in Neriya of Belthangady on June 15 and the second on June 17 in Bangadi were two Basadis were robbed.
But, the theft of as many as 15 antique idols dating back to two centuries before Christ and worth thousands of crores of rupees from the Siddantha Darshana Mandir behind the Guru Basadi in Moodbidri, the Jain Kashi of the South on the night of July 6, is still haunting the district.
The theft, said to be the handiwork of a single man abetted by many more influential and powerful men, wherein ancient and precious idols bedecked with gems and revered and worshipped by the Jains since centuries have been stolen, has deeply hurt the religious sentiments of the Jains.
A breakthrough was however achieved in investigation with the arrest of the prime accused Ghanshyam Das alias Santosh of Odisha at Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh, a week after the Karnataka police raided the home of his father-in-law, Digambar Mohanty in Bhubaneswar and recovered three intact idols and five that had been “melted”. Mohanty and Das’s wife Diptimayee were arrested for abetting the crime.
Karnataka police later raided the Chhattisgarh, showroom of Anoopchand Trilokchand Jewellers, who are among the biggest jewellery chains in central India, and arrested Subhash Sancheti alias Rajaji, owner of the Bhilai branch and brother-in-law of the chain’s owner Ashok Baredi.
Police say Das had been supplying stolen idols to the jewelers for long. As rumours are agog that the idols have been sold at the international market at Bangkok, the police here are making frantic efforts to recover the stolen idols even as reports suggest that the Chattisgarh government is non co-operative. Even the Jain community is anguished over "non-cooperation" by Chattisgarh police.
Faced with criticism that police was hesitating to act owing to the alleged links of the case with influential jewelers, Ramnivas, DGP of Chattisgarh has already said that they have requested the Karnataka police to handover the probe to CBI.
Three months gone by and presently the issue is hotting up with leaders demanding a CBI probe. State Minister for Youth Affairs Abhayachandra Jain who even happens to be the MLA representing Moodbidri constituency, has already appealed for a CBI probe, citing the reason that the Chattigarh government authorities were non-co-operative .
The Basadi authorities too have written to the prime minister, the President and Transport Minister Oscar Fernandes. “It has come to be known that the case has an angle of politics in Odisha 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,” a letter written by the Jain Mutt Seer to Oscar Fernandes states.
In a latest twist to the case, a prominent religious head of the Jain community 108 Acharya Viveka Sagara Munimaharajaru has decided to go on a hunger strike from October 1 if there was not much of a progress in the investigations into the burglary case by then. Swasti Shree Bhattaraka Panditacharyavarya Swamiji of Moodbidri Jain Mutt has already said that he supported the decision of the seer.
In a letter to Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, the Jain Mutt seer said lakhs of Jains and even non-Jains were greatly concerned over the theft of antique and valuable idols from the Mandir two and a half months ago. The letter stated that the idols were being worshipped by Jains since the times of Mauryas, Vijayanagara kings and Hoysalas.
The Jain Mutt seer also suspects the involvement of an international racket behind the idol thefts and wants the Karnataka and Chattisgarh Chief Ministers to sit together and discuss the issue and ensure good co-operation between the police departments of the two states in probing the case and tracing the idols.The Jain Mutt also feels a CBI probe was advisable in case investigations fail to make headway.
In the meantime, the Basadi authorities are also considering digitization of the existing idols at the Siddantha Bhavan. This would need building of a data base by collecting photographs and data of weights and measurements of the idols. Security at the Basadi has been stepped up following the theft.
With almost over two months passing by since the major burglary took place, serious concerns are now raised over the fate of the idols. There is a need for the state government to step in and ensure a thorough probe into this case so that all the men behind the heist are nabbed and the priceless treasures recovered.n