The Idol Wing CID police have called for tightening security measures to safeguard precious antiques in temples, including the seven ‘sapthavidangal’ and 27 ‘upavidangal’ temples, in Tamil Nadu.

According to police sources, the move follows the Idol Wing CID police seizing the ‘Maragatha Lingam’ of the Maruntheeswarar Temple in Thiruthuraipoondi (stolen in early 2009) from a gang. The suspects told the investigators that they had gained entry into the temple by forcing open the rear entry. The case pertaining to the thefts of ‘Gomegatha Lingam’ idol from Neeladhatchiamman Temple in Nagapattinam district and the ‘Maragatha Lingam’ idol from Thyagaraja Swamy Temple in Thiruvarur district remain undetected.

“We have insisted on adequate security arrangements at all the ‘sapthavidangal’ and ‘upavidangal’ temples. It has been suggested the security arrangements for the ‘Maragatha Lingam’ idol at Thirunallar temple (located in the Union Territory of Puducherry) be taken as a model,” Additional Director General of Police (Economic Offences Wing) G. Thilakavathi said on Tuesday.

At a couple of meetings held recently, officials of the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR and CE) were told to enhance security at temples by installing modern gadgets. “We have called for a revamping of the Temple Protection Force…young people should be recruited and trained in various aspects. They must also know the historical significance of temples,” she said.

An official in the Idol Wing CID said police had emphasised on the use of security gadgets that would alert temple and police officials automatically whenever there is human intervention at a secure place. Asked about the purity and make of the emerald idol that was seized on Monday, he said there was no provision (for the agency) to make such an analysis.

“When stolen panchaloha idols are seized, we refer them to the State Archaeology Department for certification. For emeralds, expert opinion has to be sought from private sources. In this case, the emerald idol had some identification marks that were recognised by three priests and the Executive Officer of the temple…they have handled the idol for more than two decades,” I. Khader Basha, Investigation Officer, said.

There was a need for more ‘Icon Centres’ in the State to ensure the safe custody of idols in temples, including small and private ones. “The process of registering antique idols with the Archaeology Department is underway. There have been instances when antique idols were mixed with new ones and exported. It has been proposed to make a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the Idol Wing CID police mandatory for exporting idols,” Mr. Basha added.

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