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Rashbehari mystery chests to bare secret

Three iron chests found buried under a Rashbehari Avenue plot six years ago will be prised open on June 16, following a court order triggered by claims and counter-claims of the present and former owners of the land.

The three chests kept at Gariahat police station will be opened by fire brigade officers in the presence of experts from the Geological Survey of India (GSI) and the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), who will examine the contents.

“The contents of the chests will decide who will get them,” said an officer of Gariahat police station.

The chest mystery unfolded in 2008 after a shoe company bought the plot and started building an outlet.

“The chests were found when labourers were digging the plot,” said the police officer. “The chests were very heavy — each weighing more than 1,000kg. As the workers could not lift them, the contractor hired a crane. We were alerted by residents of the area when the crane went to the spot.”

After officers saw the chest, they immediately decided to seize them. “The chests were too heavy to be brought to the police station manually. We had to hire a crane to bring them here,” the officer said.

As soon as news of the find spread, the person who had sold the plot to the shoe company moved the civil court in Alipore staking claim to the chests. The shoe company challenged the claim.

The court had heard the matter for five years and ordered the Gariahat police in November to make arrangements for opening the chests in the presence of ASI and GSI representatives.

The police first approached the Disaster Management Group of Calcutta police to open the chests. The group, however, expressed its inability to do the job because of the thickness of the metal. “Besides, the Disaster Management Group does not have gas-cutters.”

The police then approached the fire brigade. “We asked the police to alert all authorities concerned well in advance so they could be present when we will open the chests,” said a fire brigade officer.

“If it is found that the contents of the chests are of archaeological or geological significance, none other than the ASI or the GSI will be handed over the items,” said an officer.