Chopped pieces of the sandalwood trees recovered from the pond near Visva-Bharati on Wednesday
Santiniketan, Sept. 18: Visva-Bharati decided not to call police and the sandalwood trees popped up in a pond today.
Chopped pieces of the two sandalwood trees, felled and stolen from the varsity on Monday night, were found stuck in the mud floor of the pond less than 1km from the varsity campus in Santiniketan.
Visva-Bharati said “reliable sources” had “tipped off” the authorities about the trees lying in the shallow pond.
Vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta today said the varsity had not lodged a police complaint because of two reasons.
First, the CBI’s failure to retrieve Tagore’s Nobel medal that was stolen in 2004. Second, frequent visits by the police to the campus would have disturbed the “precious heritage” of the institution.
“We have not yet approached the law-enforcement agency because we don’t want to have the sanctity of the precious heritage areas disturbed by frequent visits of police personnel. Also, our past experience after Tagore’s Nobel medal theft has not reassured us about the... CBI,” Dattagupta had told The Telegraph about six hours before the trees were found.
U.P. Singh, the chief security officer of Visva-Bharati, said an investigating team of the varsity came to know about the trees this morning.
“We came to know from reliable sources that the trees could be hidden in a pond at Lalbandh. We went there around 4pm. Our security personnel waded into chest-deep water and found the stolen trees,” Singh said.
The vice-chancellor said the credit of finding the trees went to the chief security officer and his team. “We are happy they found the trees so fast,” he added.
Visva-Bharati VC Dattagupta
The 50-year-old trees worth around Rs 20 lakh were stolen on Monday night. CCTV footage could not capture the thieves as the area where the trees were located was outside the coverage area of the cameras.
Four security personnel have been suspended on the charge of negligence.
Varsity officials and a section of ashramites questioned the varsity’s decision of not lodging a police complaint.
A senior district police officer said Visva-Bharati should have informed the police as “theft is a criminal offence”.
Birbhum police chief C. Sudhakar said: “Visva-Bharati’s contention that police visits would disturb the sanctity of the university is not correct. Our visits would have been part of our investigation. Why should sanctity be disturbed?”
Some ashramites also said they did not support the varsity’s decision.
Veteran ashramite and former principal of Patha Bhavana Supriyo Tagore said: “I have nothing to say if the vice-chancellor speaks like this. I can only say that if I was in charge, I would have lodged a police complaint.”
A senior professor said he suspected the involvement of “insiders” in the theft.
“Insiders could be involved and the authorities are afraid that any official or staff member could be identified had the police investigated the case,” the professor said.
Kishor Bhattacharya, the general secretary of Adhyapak Sabha, the teachers’ body of the varsity, said: “We wanted a probe by the police. However, we have full faith in our vice-chancellor.”