The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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‘Lost’ and found on Visva-Bharati’s shelves

Santiniketan, June 6: Two bronze medals and a wood casket with silverwork on the lid were listed among priceless Tagore memorabilia stolen from Rabindra Bhavan museum two months ago along with the Nobel medal.

But the items that featured on the dossier of stolen goods prepared by both Visva-Bharati and the burglary busters were not stolen at all. They were found from the same shelves where they were supposed to be, though not in their original position.

P.S. Bose, the CBI deputy superintendent who was recently entrusted the task of tracing the stolen memorabilia, stumbled on the items while cross-checking the lists handed by the CID and the university authorities.

A Japanese university and the university of Yale in the US had gifted the bronze medals to Rabindranath Tagore. The people of Tripura presented the casket during one of his visits there.

A month ago, the CBI found an ivory artefact and small elephant idols, which were listed as stolen, inside the museum.

On the morning of March 25, Visva-Bharati authorities found that someone had sneaked into the museum and stolen Tagore’s memorabilia along with other priceless items. The theft was probably carried out the day before (March 24), when the museum was closed.

An alert was sounded and the CID and police swung into action. Several persons were rounded up and the CBI was called in to probe the theft in the wake of mounting pressure on sleuths to trace the stolen goods.

But despite more arrests and a glimmer of a breakthrough once in a while, the break-in and the burglary have remained a mystery and the prized Nobel medal untraced.

The CBI, which traced the bronze medals and the casket about 10 days ago, had called the Visva-Bharati authorities to verify the objects’ authenticity. The bureau then set out to prepare a fresh list of stolen memorabilia.

The new list has 45 “missing” items and not 50 as mentioned by the CID and the varsity.

It was learnt that the CBI wanted to keep the news of the lost-and-found items under wraps. The university authorities decided to make it public after the news leaked out and sections of the media started making enquiries.

The Visva-Bharati authorities claimed that the three objects escaped their attention as they made the list of stolen items from a distance and were not allowed by the investigators to go near the shelves.

Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sujit Basu said curator of the museum Dilip Hazra was present with the CBI team that wanted to take a closer look at the shelves from where the memorabilia were stolen. As the sleuths were through with fingerprint matching, they could touch the glass cases. Basu said: “They found the three items during the check-up.”

Visva-Bharati has withdrawn the insurance claim for the three items. A letter in this regard has already been sent to the Suri branch of the National Insurance Company.

The CBI has started pasting posters declaring a reward of Rs 10 lakh for anyone providing clues to the stolen goods. Posters were put up in stations and long-distance trains.

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