KOCHI: 12 years after a centuries-old emerald idol of Lord Shiva was stolen from Sringeri Mutt in Kalady in 2009, the case continues to haunt the Kerala Police. The Temple Theft Investigation Special Team (TTIST), which was exclusively formed to probe the idol theft case, solved more than 300 other theft cases while digging up clues for this particular case, but the idol thief is still nowhere in the team’s radar.
Now, with the National Gallery of Australia (NGA) deciding to return 14 works of art — including idols stolen by US-based antique smuggler Subhash Kapoor from temples in the south — to India, the Sringeri idol theft case is once again back in the limelight. It may be noted that the then probe team had established some links between Kapoor and the emerald idol theft case.
Though the probe team interrogated Tamil Nadu-based Sanjivi Asokan who helped Kapoor lift idols from temples in South India, they were unable to extract any details from him. “We even collected evidence of Sanjivi Asokan’s presence in Ernakulam just days before the theft. However, the probe somehow didn’t proceed further due to want of evidence,” said Inspector General P Vijayan, who was then heading TITST.
The Kerala Police had hoped to make a breakthrough in the case when Tamil Nadu police got Kapoor extradited from Germany in July 2012, in connection with the smuggling of a number of idols from Tamil Nadu. Though the team questioned Kapoor, it could not get any solid information regarding the idol. The team also expected some leads in the case when TN police arrested three people for robbing a similar idol of Lord Shiva from Arulmigu Piravi Marutheeswarar Kovil at Thiruthuraipoondi. But that too, yielded no results.
Mutt authorities said though the police wanted to call off the probe, they have requested them to continue. “We are still hopeful of getting back the idol,” said an official. The idol was first handed over by the King of Nepal to the King of Mysore, who in turn presented it to the Mutt in 1910.