Piqued over incessant complaints of thefts of ancient idols reported in the State, Justice R. Mahadevan of the Madras High Court on Wednesday warned the State government that he would be constrained to order a Central Bureau of Investigation probe if the Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowments (HR&CE) Department did not spring into action.
The judge took serious note of a complaint made by Rangarajan Narasimhan of Tiruchi alleging theft of several precious artefacts from the Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam and recent newspaper reports of a Panchaloga (a traditional five metal alloy) idol having been stolen from the famous Sri Arunachaleswarar Temple in Tiruvannamalai district.
“It is a very sorry state of affairs in the State. This is totally unacceptable. The petitioner [Mr. Narasimhan] has been repeatedly approaching the government officials, but not an inch has moved. If idols are missing from each and every temple, then we will have to ask the CBI to probe into it. Why should there be a HR&CE department at all?” the judge asked.
‘Unaware of complaint’
Replying, HR&CE counsel S.P. Maharajan said the petitioner had been making repeated complaints only to the police and not to the officials of the department “Now that we have come to know of his complaint, we shall take immediate action. I will ask the officials to start finding out the veracity of his claim right now,” he said.
On his part, State Public Prosecutor (in-charge) C. Emilias sought time till Friday to obtain instructions from the Idol Wing Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department sleuths on the steps taken by them so far on the complaints lodged with regard to alleged theft of artefacts from the Sri Ranganthaswamy Temple.
Mr. Narasimhan, however, told the court that he was tired of making representations to the HR&CE officials as well as the police with regard to missing of precious idols, doors made of exotic wood, many kalasams , sculptures, unblemished granite pavements and other treasures which had been buried by kings of the past on the 157-acre campus of the temple.
In his submissions, ‘Elephant’ G. Rajendran, a petitioner in another case related to idol thefts, stated that several panchaloga idols at Uma Maheshwarar Temple in Konerirajapuram in Nagapattinam district were kept in a small room with ordinary lock though the value of those idols would run into several hundred crores in the international idol market.
Similarly, about 30 panchaloga idols at Meenakshi Sundareswarar Temple at Senthalai village near Tirukattupalli in Thanjavur district were also kept without any safety, he said, and sought a direction to the Director General of Police to provide police protection to the idols stored in both the temples.
After hearing them, the judge adjourned further hearing on the batch of cases to Friday by when the counsel for HR&CE department as well as the police were ordered to submit details of action taken on complaints of theft of artefacts from Srirangam.