The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Buddha theft find and arrest

Bhubaneswar/Calcutta, Jan. 14: Police in Orissa stumbled on an 11th century bronze Buddha statue stolen from a museum while looking for pilfered bikes earlier this week. And at the Indian Museum in Calcutta, a senior technical assistant was picked up today, 16 days after a fifth century Buddha statue was stolen from the collection.

On Wednesday night, the Orissa State Museum lodged a report with the police about a rare idol that had been stolen ' a day after the thieves were caught. An 11th century bronze statue of Buddha had gone missing in November, but not a soul in the museum knew till Tuesday.

The tantric Buddha idol, one of the 56,000 antiquities in the museum, is 14cm in height and has inscriptions in Pali on its back.

Police from the Kharavela Nagar station in Bhubaneswar, during routine investigation into a series of bike thefts, raided the house of Amar Samal and arrested him. Another person, Krushna Panda, was also picked up.

During interrogation, the two said they had stolen the idol with another youth, Mrutyunjay Mahali, during a manuscript conservation programme in the museum last year.

When the police made inquiries, museum superintendent Chandrabhanu Patel said no such theft had been reported. Bhubaneswar superintendent of police Amitav Thakur said the museum authorities were not convinced about the theft until the police produced the stolen item.

The showcase in which the Buddha idol was exhibited was found empty. Patel admitted ignorance about the theft. 'The idol might have gone missing during our routine renovation programme. It's a big museum. Such things happen,' Patel said. He added that about 60 such thefts had taken place since the museum was established.

Even in Calcutta's Indian Museum, the authorities can't tell when the Buddha was stolen. Satyakam Sen was arrested after sleuths claimed his fingerprints matched those collected from the glass casing covering the Buddha head. Working in the museum since 1992, Sen, 41, has denied all charges. Investigators said Sen had informed the police about the disappearance.

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