The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Poetic justice chases thieves

March 26: Police are clutching at straws and Visva-Bharati is banking on “Tagore’s philosophy”.

Confronted by the lack of a breakthrough in the Santiniketan investigation, Visva-Bharati University vice-chancellor Sujit Kumar Basu was today reduced to making an appeal to the felons.

“If you did not understand the import of what you took, please return them,” he said, adding that they would be forgiven “in accordance with Tagore’s philosophy”.

The police said the burglary was carried out by a three-to-six-member group of “professional criminals, possibly with international links”. However, investigators could not get a decisive lead.

The only silver lining of the day was an announcement that Tagore’s Nobel citation was not stolen and that a painting taken away was not an original.

Pictures of all items, including the Nobel medal and several other memorabilia , stolen from the Rabindranath Memorial Museum have been sent to airports and ports across the country. Armed with the list of items and the pictures, Calcutta airport officials have begun frisking passengers.

The additional director-general of the criminal investigation department, R.K. Mohanty, said in Santiniketan that two persons with criminal records were detained here and sent to Calcutta for further interrogation.

“All the evidence that we have gathered so far (including fingerprints and footprints) indicates that the heist was done by a gang of three to six persons,” Mohanty said. “Besides, the manner in which the grille — inside the window — was unscrewed suggests the involvement of professional criminals,” he added.

The vice-chancellor said any probe by any agency would be welcome. Some time after a central team started on its way to Santiniketan to help in the probe, Basu said he was not opposed to a CBI investigation if it helped recover what was stolen.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, however, bristled at such suggestions in Calcutta. “We will take the Centre’s help if required,” he said, asking: “Why are such questions being raised'”

Bhattacharjee will go to Santiniketan on Sunday to give a boost to the police operations. Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee decided to go one up by saying she would be here on Saturday. Today, industries minister Nirupam Sen visited Visva-Bharati.

The CID team probing the case has roped in all officers-in-charge and circle inspectors who served the area in the last five years. “All these officers have served here for some time and, therefore, know the place,” Mohanty said.

“Though Santiniketan is called a no-crime zone, it does not imply that there is no crime here,” he added. “The involvement of these officers will help the CID team get an idea of the nature of crime and the identity of criminals in the locality.”

The police said that it appeared that the crime was carried out on Tuesday night rather than on Wednesday. “The thieves would have needed that extra time (the museum is shut every Wednesday) to make a clean getaway,” an official said.

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