தமிழ்நாட்டு கோவில்களில் சிலை திருட்டு அதிகரிக்கிறது.
கோவில்களில் அதன் நிர்வாகத்தில் முனைப்புடன் இந்துக்கள் ஆர்வம் காட்டவேண்டும். அங்கு நாஸ்திக, கம்யூனிஸ, திமுக, திராவிட கழக மற்றும் மிஷனரி ஜிகாதி கும்பல்கள் அதிகாரம் செலுத்தாமல் இருக்க இந்துக்கள் ஆர்வத்துடன் பங்கெடுத்து அங்கு உழைப்பதே இது போன்ற திருடுகளுக்கு மாற்று.
இந்துக்கோவில்கள் இந்துக்களின் கைகளிலேயே இருக்க வேண்டும்.
Idol thieves target Tamil Nadu temples
27 Jun 2008, 1117 hrs IST, K Praveen Kumar,TNN
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Exquisitely carved Natarajas have been stolen from poorly guarded temples in Tamil Nadu (TOI Photo)
CHENNAI: Tamil Nadu has always been synonymous with temples. It boasts of some of the most popular temple towns - Kancheepuram, Madurai and Tanjavur. Built centuries ago, these temples are a visual treat for lovers of architecture and history.
However, not everyone visits these temples with an intention to appreciate their beauty or to worship. They have now become soft targets for idol thieves. In the last one month, there have been at least three cases of idol thefts, the latest being Thursday, where a wooden elephant was found being smuggled to France.
The exquisitely carved Natarajas, Alwars and Murugans, crafted prior to 12th century have been stolen from these poorly guarded temples and make their way to many foreign countries.
Westerners pay exorbitant amounts for these idols. The idol wing of the crime branch CID, a special branch dedicated to track idol theft cases in the state, has seized 16 antique idols from different parts of the state this year.
Officials from the idol wing say that there are idol thieves active in every district of Tamil Nadu, constantly targeting temples in Tanjavur and Madurai belonging to the Chola period, temples in Kancheepuram and Vellore belonging to the the Pallava period and temples in Tirunelveli belonging to the Pandian period.
"These gangs constantly roam around the districts and target temples which don't have adequate security. When they strike at a temple, they only pick up the expensive idols. In many cases, they kill the security guard at the temple," an idol wing official said.
Once the burglars pick up idols, they hand them over to middlemen. "There are middlemen involved in the smuggling of idols. The burglars hand over the idols to first level middlemen who are mainly located in Karaikudi, Madurai and Chennai. Karaikudi is the main market for stolen idols. The middlemen collect the idols and get in touch with their other contacts. They provide the photograph of the idol to the second-level middlemen to assess the quality and value of the idol. The third-level middlemen later buy them and either send them outside the country or to cities like Mumbai and Delhi," the official added.
These panchaloha idols, the price of which even the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) cannot ascertain, are sold to the first-level middlemen for as less as 10,000 to 15,000. "The first level middlemen sell this off for around Rs 1 lakh and the second level middlemen, for a price between Rs 5-10 lakh for the idol. In the international market, these idols are sold for a price between Rs 50 lakh and Rs 1 crore," the official added.
The value of the idol is calculated as per its antiquity, size and weight. "There is a demand in the international market for 12th century idols. So the idol thieves concentrate more on areas like Tanjavur, Tiruvarur, Madurai and Kancheepuram," the official said.
Any transaction of artifacts that are more than 100 years old need permission from the government. “It is very easy to send the antiques out from India. The container services do not evaluate the age of the artifacts sent through them. The consignee records them as new artefact and presents photos of new artifacts. The consignment is then certified as non-antique, The customs officials also rely on this statement,” another official said.