Chennai

A racket hidden in plain sight

His reputation as a dealer of handicrafts seems to have given Deenadayalan, in whose house several hundreds of antique idols stolen from temples were recovered, the perfect cover. He did not even make an attempt to conceal the crates of idols, but left them lying strewn around his house, and godown. Even when neighbours saw idols come in frequently, they presumed it was what he did for a living.

So, they remained unaware until the recent raids that a house in their midst was the never centre of a big racket that plundered temples, with some of the idols and artefacts estimated to be least 1000 years old.

Not surprisingly, they also knew very little about G. Deenadayalan. “I would see him only during his morning walk when he was always unaccompanied,” said C. Rajan of Assam, a watchman at an apartment complex near the racketeer’s house. Mr. Rajan said he knew Mansingh, the 58-year-old domestic help of Deenadayalan, but neither would speak about their employers or jobs.

Hailing from Nepal, Mansingh, now in judicial custody, was with his employer for nearly 30 years. He shifted to the Murray’s Gate Road home of Deenadayalan when he bought it about 10 years ago. Deenadayalan’s home is stacked with stone and panchaloha idols in addition to temple paintings that are framed.

His rented godown – a little distance away on Venus Colony Second Cross Street — too is filled with idols. One of them that immediately grabs a visitor’s attention is a stone idol of Vinayagar with an exquisitely carved crown and three serpents around the stomach. This is reported to be from a temple in Karnataka, sources said. The idols are now being properly arranged and numbered.

K.Ganesan, a building demolition contractor from Karapakkam, who had actually come to the area to check if the news reports about the idols seizure were true, was shocked at the manner in which the idols were strewn around Deenadayalan’s home and godown and wondered how such a brazen crime could go unchecked.

P. Ramachandran, a driver, and D. Kamalakannan, watchman at an apartment complex nearby, are more familiar with the locality as they have been working there for over 15 years, but they too knew very little about the Deenadayalan household. “We have seen the idols but never thought they would be stolen from temples,” Mr. Kamalakannan said.

According to Mr. Ramachandran, the compound wall of the house had collapsed about a month ago and a new, taller one was built in its place. He said that patrol policemen would be present during the morning and evening rush hours near the intersection of Murray’s Gate Road and Seshadri Road. Families living in independent homes and apartments either knew nothing about what was happening in Deenadayalan’s home or preferred not to speak about him to the media.


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Printable version | Oct 19, 2021 6:43:19 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/A-racket-hidden-in-plain-sight/article14423882.ece

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