While the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police has cracked some cases, investigations into some big ticket cases have hit a roadblock.
Sources point out that there has been little progress in the investigation against Sanjeevi Ashokan, a main supplier of smuggled idols to international smuggler Subhash Kapoor, Narasimhan of Southern Arts and V. Sekar, Kollywood film director.
Not a single artefact sold by these dealers has been traced by the investigators. No case has been filed against those in Hong Kong who received the idols smuggled by Kapoor and were named in the original FIR.
In fact, UK-based Sushma Sareen, who was accused of hiding an idol of Suthamalli Nataraja and Uma, has gone scot-free as her extradition has not been sought.
“Hundreds of idols of other States, including some of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala and some from ASI sites in Gujarat, were seized in America, totalling 2,622 objects and valued at ₹800 crore. Yet, there are only four cases against Kapoor covering 32 idols,” pointed out S.Vijayakumar, a researcher in arts and artefacts. He added that no case was lodged even in some proven cases of theft.
The statues of Thachur Murugan, Nagapattinam Buddha and Sendamangalam stone dancing Sambandhar were seized in the U.S. and a bronze idol of Sambandhar is in the National Gallery of Australia.
“Take the case of the Tiruvelikudi Nataraja returned by the Kimbell Art Museum in the U.S. The Idol Wing was formed based on the success of the team that cracked that case. However, along with that 280 idols were seized in London in 1980s and the dealer was arrested. But we never followed up the case and no one knows what happened to the idols,” said Mr. Vijayakumar.