GUWAHATI: A 12th century idol of Tibetan saint Terton Pema Lingpa, stolen from Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh, has been recovered by the crime branch of the Delhi Police. The idol, worth crores of rupees, is revered by Buddhists across the world.
The Delhi Police arrested two persons, Ngawang Tsundue (29) of Dharamsala and his live-in partner MS Lobsang Gakey Sherpa (26) of Tibet, who now resides in Delhi, in connection with the theft. The idol was stolen from the house of “head cheepa” (head lama) of Sangyeling gompa on the intervening night of May 31 and June 1. Following the incident, “major socio-religious unrest” was brewing in Arunachal, the Delhi Police said.
“On June 4, information was received by the crime branch that an ancient idol, which has high religious and spiritual value, was stolen from the Tawang district and the racketeers involved were trying to sell it in the grey market in Majnu ka tilla area of Delhi and thereafter, it would be smuggled into Tibet. Keeping in mind the sensitivity of the matter, the crime branch contacted the complainant and details were sought,” deputy commissioner of police (crime branch), Madhur Verma, said.
The next day, he said, information was received that a couple, who had stolen the idol, would come near the gurdwara at Majnu ka tilla around 8 am to sell it to a prospective buyer. Immediately, a team was constituted and a trap laid. Around 10.40 am, Ngawang Tsundue and Lobsang Gakey Sherpa were apprehended and the idol and some “religious clothes” were seized from them.
“During interrogation, Tsundue said he was a permanent resident of Tibet and had come to India in 2009-10. He started living in Dharamsala where he came in contact with the daughter of the head cheepa of Tawang. In 2011, he married her but the duo later divorced. Since then, there was bad blood between Tsundue and the family of the head cheepa. He knew about the idol being kept at the head cheepa’s house. So, he thought if he could steal it, it would not only fetch him big money but the head cheepa would also face defamation as a consequence.
“He shared his plan with his live-in partner, who agreed to help him. About 10-15 days back, he went to Tawang and on getting an opportunity, broke into the head cheepa’s house and stole the idol. He then returned to Delhi and was looking for customers. They were also trying to take it to Tibet to get a higher price,” Verma said. Tawang deputy commissioner (district magistrate), Sang Phuncho, said the theft of the idol had caused resentment among people.
“There was no tension as such but resentment. People were hurt that the antique idol had been stolen,” Phuncho told The New Indian Express. He said the head cheepa was in Delhi on Monday following his visit to Manali.