M A I N   N E W S

8 detained for Tagore medal theft

Kolkata, March 26
Eight persons have been detained so far in connection with the theft of Rabindranath Tagore’s Nobel Prize and other valuable belongings from Vishva Bharati, official sources said today.

The sources said the theft occurred on Wednesday when the security personnel were busy watching the Indo-Pak cricket match on television.

However, insiders in Vishva Bharati said the act was very well planned and the burglars had every detail about the specific cupboards which contained the items stolen.

They said the miscreants had broken open only those almirahs that contained the valuables.

Meanwhile, a report from Santiniketan quoting Vishva Bharati Vice-Chancellor Dr Sujit Basu said forensic experts had found 26 fingerprints from the museum from where altogether 50 items were stolen.

The thieves took away the gold Nobel medal besides other priceless artefacts and gold medallions received by the Nobel laureate from the museum located in the high security zone within the university campus.

Santiniketan: The state government has sealed borders with neighbouring states and countries and alerted railway stations and airport to plug possible escape routes of the burglars.

The Vice-Chancellor of Vishva Bharati, Mr Surjit Kumar Basu, rebutted media reports that the university has sought a replica of the stolen medal from the Nobel Prize Committee and said “we will rather wait for the original to be recovered before contemplating such a request.”

Nobel Foundation Executive Director Michael Solman told NDTV 24X7 that it was ready to issue a replica of Tagore’s medal. The West Bengal IGP Chayan Mukherjee refused to comment if any insider’s hand was suspected behind the burglary as also whether any gang had been identified. “I can’t comment in the interest of the investigation,” he said.

Seventy private securitymen and 42 National Volunteer Force personnel were on duty around the university under the supervision of a retired Armyman, Mukherjee said adding that the timing of the theft was found to be between 2.30 pm on Tuesday and 10 am on Thursday. ‘’We have to zero in on exact timing of the crime.’’

He, however, said all angles were being examined.

About the possibility of seeking INTERPOL help considering the curio collectors’ activities worldwide, the IGP said it was up to the state government to think over it, if necessary.

Even though the officials were as yet unsure if INTERPOL’s help would be sought, Chief Minister Buddhadev Bhattacharjee said the Centre’s help might be sought in the probe at a later stage.

A public interest litigation was filed during the day in the Calcutta High Court seeking a CBI inquiry into the heist.

The Vice-Chancellor said “it will be shame if we cannot locate the original medal. Our efforts will be to do that first.”

Mr Basu said he had sent a detailed report on the incident and the steps taken by the university authorities in its wake to President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who is its Chancellor, and West Bengal Governor Viren J. Shah. — PTI, UNI


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