To prevent idol thefts in temples of Tamil Nadu, stone idols are recommended by the Police!!

Idol theft from Tamil nadu

The thefts of idols from the temples of Tamil Nadu continue unabated regardless of beefed-up security and no full-proof security system is in place yet.  The special  investigative Agency -Idol Wing under the state government is trying hard to recover the stolen idols. The task becomes more difficult once they leave the Indian shores. Looted antiques from temples of India is a multi-billion industry. In some temples in the villages to avoid outrage among the local people, the leader of the gang had  a replica of the stolen idol commissioned and ordered his men to deposit it either in the temple itself  or on the side of the road near the temple or near  the local police station to avoid suspicion.   

Temple idol theft, India

According to media reports published in 2018, at that point of time no fewer than 1200 antique valuable idols between 1992 and 2017 were  stealthy removed from Hindu temples of Tamil Nadu alone to be sold on the international market. In February, 2020 The Deccan herald reported that  the Odisha state government was concerned about the rising theft of idols from temples .It is no doubt the handy work of well-planned and trained local gangs of thugs specialized in stealing metal idols of God from temples. Their targets are mostly temples in remote villages with poor security.  The large scale theft  won't have been possible without the collusion of international smugglers and their agents in the state who instigate the local professional thugs.

The efficient Idol wing police of TN is yet to recover 350 of these idols, possibly  most of them were either in the museums or in private hands  overseas. They are not traceable. Only just 18 idols  had been recovered.  In the wake of this revelation of  idol thefts from Tamil Nadu, the HR & CE of the state government, on the advice of Idol Wing,  security for the idols was  beefed up to prevent theft and burglary.  Loss of invaluable idols made of metal alloy (Iyyempon) is a serious matter and at stake is the ethos and culture of this region. They are part of Hindu temples and symbols of divinity and it is a painful sight to see them on display in foreign museums.  Looting a temple and the idols or jewelry there , therefore, is a sacrilegious act,  an affront to the sentiments of the Hingus.  

Retrieving stolen idols, etc from foreign museums, etc in particular  is a difficult and time consuming one.  When the landmark UNESCO convention prohibiting the illicit trade in cultural property was passed in 1970, many countries including Britain  wantonly delayed its implementation  for decades before final ratification. It is obvious  Western museums vehemently operated  on a similar dictum: “What’s mine is mine; what’s yours is mine.”  Their 2002  approach  is an example “Declaration on the Importance and Value of Universal Museums,” a statement put forth by the directors of the British Museum, the Louvre, the Prado, and fifteen other institutions to preempt repatriation claims. The museum directors highlight the view that  Western museums are meant to inspire i the “universal admiration” for the ancient civilizations whose treasures they displayed. They impressed on the visitors to “acknowledge that museums serve not just the citizens of one nation but the people of every nation” and argued that whittling down their “diverse and multifaceted”  Collections through repatriation requests, however legitimate, ''would therefore be a disservice to all visitors.''

temple idol theft.

The center and state are acting in unison to get to the root cause of idol thefts and  are keeping  their eye on the cartels with international links who are responsible for the theft of artifacts from historical temples. Out of 36,595 temples,in Tamil nadu, nearly 11,500 temples in the state now have strong  strong facilities to prevent thefts. The idol wing made a suggestion to avoid using  Processional metal idols (Urchavar or festival idols) of value  frequently. So they are taken out  for puja or festivities once a year.  Instead of them stone idols  are being used  for festivals to reduce  thefts. 

In the recent past The Madras High court that heard the petition over transfering the unsolved  idol theft cases to the CBI for effective action, came down heavily on the lax in security and the apathy of  officials of  HR & CE. A case in point is, it is alleged,  that ancient idols worth Rs 7 crore were kept in a small room without any protection. Two policemen on duty to guard the room  had been withdrawn without giving any reason and the idols were left unprotected.