Profiling of Idols to Ward Off Smuggling Yet to Begin in State
At a time when the country was working with museums abroad to retrieve the stolen idols that adorn art museums elsewhere in the world, the profiling of all the idols in the temples in Tamil Nadu to establish the ownership to reclaim the idols, if they were stolen, is yet to begin.
The idea was mooted by the Idol Wing of Economic Offences Wing (EOW) following the arrest and extradition of Subash Kapoor, international idols and antique smuggler, from Germany.
Kapoor’s racket had led to the lifting of about 150 idols across the world, of which 100 were stolen from India and as many as 27 idols stolen from Tamil Nadu are to be reclaimed.
The Idol Wing officials, with the help of the local police, had enumerated the number of temples and the number of idols - the number was about 4.5 lakh idols in 45,000 temples.
Since the smugglers always target the temples which were neglected or least accessed for worship by the public, the Idol Wing suggested survey of such temples and to keep tabs on those during the night rounds.
Besides, the senior police officials have written to the Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowments (HR & CE) to profile the idols in all temples within six months.
However, thus far the HR & CE Department has not profiled a single idol.
“We have insisted them to do it citing that it would come in handy and presently we have been using the documented pictures obtained from the Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP) and Ecole Française d’Extrême Orient (EFEO) to establish our ownership. The HR & CE believes that profiling the idols would affect the sanctity of the idol. We did not want them to circulate it, but to keep a copy with them and submit one to us so that we can use it at times of crisis,” a senior police official said.
In addition, the Idol Wing has suggested Infra Red (IR) tagging to be done in the idols. Such tagging would flare up in the Customs check when smuggled out of the country and also to do metal engraving to prevent the idols being smuggled out.
Presently, the process to retrieve two idols, Natrajar and Ardhanarishwarar, both sitting in the custody of two different government arts museums in Australia was on. The Idol Wing has also started its negotiation
with the Homeland Investigation Division in New
York to reclaim the idols recovered from the possession of Kapoor.