Ponn Manickavel blames ex-DGP for stalling efforts to bring back Nataraja idol from Aus

Levelling serious allegations against retired DGP TK Rajendran, Ponn Manickavel, who was appointed as the Special Officer of Idol Wing, said the former DGP hindered his efforts to bring back an antique Nataraja idol from Australia.
Ponn Manickavel and TK Rajendran
Ponn Manickavel and TK Rajendran

Chennai

Talking to reporters at Palani, Manickavel said the Nataraja idol was sold out to a museum in Adelaide in 2001. After the museum administration agreed to return the idol, said to be worth Rs 30 crore, he took efforts to bring it back in 12 weeks.

“But it could not be done, only because of the former DGP,” he said. After the museum administration agreed to give the idol back, a letter was sent to the DGP seeking funds. But the reply came only after nine months, in which the DGP questioned him about the source of information. In further communication, Manickavel said he referred to himself as the special officer appointed by the court and asked the DGP whether he was not interested in bringing back such a precious idol.

With strenuous efforts in days and sleepless nights, all 20 stolen antique idols, which were smuggled to foreign countries, were traced.

Turning his fire at the State government, Manickavel said his requests for assistance by deputing officers have been ignored for a long time. Instead, the government was causing several hindrances, he alleged. Due to this, he could not proceed with the investigation

Alleging that witnesses were being threatened, the officer said even though they wanted to cooperate, they were not able to due to fear. He would approach to court to ensure their safety, he added. Citing other instances, he pointed out how a Joint Commissioner, a key witness, was suspended on the verge of retirement.

According to Manickavel, he had to spend from his own pocket to nab offenders. The task to recover stolen idols was assigned to him by the government, which should have provided adequate funds in advance. A letter seeking allocation of funds was sent to the Home Secretary recently, he said. The former DGP has already caused a delay of 300 days; there should not be further delays in allocating required funds, Manickavel said, seeking its release in a week.

The Idol Wing has filed cases over 20 such idols, including that of Sembianmadevi idol from Nagapattinam, Shiva idol from Veerasolapuram near Salem, Nataraja idol that went missing from Kulasekaramudayar Aram Valartha Nayaki temple in Kallidaikurichi in Tirunelveli 36 years ago, besides Manickavasagar and Karaikal Ammaiyar idols.

He claimed that the number of precious idols smuggled from Tamil Nadu to foreign shores could number up to even 20,000, adding that his team would recover all of them and bring them back to the state.

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