The stump of one of the stolen sandalwood trees at Visva-Bharati on Tuesday
Santiniketan, Sept. 17: Two sandalwood trees worth Rs 20 lakh were stolen from the Uttarayan complex of Visva-Bharati last night, prompting the varsity to suspend four security officers for alleged negligence.
The two trees were felled within metres of the varsity’s museum, Rabindra Bhavana, from where Tagore’s Nobel medallion was stolen in 2004.
After the medal theft, the Centre had given Rs 84 lakh to the varsity to beef up security. Visva-Bharati has CCTV cameras at several points and recruited additional guards.
Last night’s CCTV footage shows two of the varsity’s 15-odd sandalwood trees falling but the people who cut them could not be seen as the trees are just outside the coverage area of the cameras.
This morning, security personnel found parts of a saw that they suspect had been used to cut the trees.
One security officer monitors the CCTV footage throughout the night.
“The iron nets covering the trees were cut before they were felled. It is very unfortunate. We have already suspended four security personnel who were on patrol duty last night for negligence. A probe has been started,” said Sabujkali Sen, the chairperson of Visva-Bharai’s media interface committee.
Varsity officials said most trees in the Uttarayan complex were planted by Rabindranath Tagore’s son Rathindranath, the first vice-chancellor of Visva-Bharati. However, it could not be immediately verified if the two sandalwood trees were also planted by Rathindranath.
The theft prompted teachers and ashramites to raise questions about security on the campus.
A senior varsity official said: “Last night’s incident proves that security is still lax in the complex.”
Rabindra Bhavana officials said six security personnel guarded the fenced Uttarayan complex every night. Eight CCTV cameras are placed at different points in the complex. The varsity, sources said, had recruited additional guards for Uttarayan.
Asked about the theft last night, varsity chief security officer U.P. Singh said: “We are trying to find out what security lapse was there. We have informed police verbally. Let us investigate first.”
Singh was today questioned by senior varsity officials, including vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta.