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Police find stolen idol before Nepal journey

Itanagar, Dec. 21: Arunachal Pradesh police recovered a stolen 300-year-old idol of a Buddhist deity just before it was to be smuggled out to Nepal via Assam and Silguri.

Valued at about $0.4 million and weighing over 9kg, the 14-inch alloy idol of Boitong Chioley Namgey had been stolen from a gompa at Lumla in Tawang.

A police team traced it to Bhalokpong in West Kameng district on Wednesday and arrested the person behind the theft, 25-year-old M. Tshering.

An idol of the Buddhist guru Padmasambhava had been stolen from Tawang in December 2006 and recovered from Kathmandu in April this year.

The superintendent of police of Tawang, S.N. Mosobi, said today that he and sub-inspector Anand Mondol found the idol in the possession of T. Tashi, 30, an acquaintance of Tshering.

Boitong Chioley Namgey, one of the most revered Buddhist deities in Tawang and West Kameng districts, is worshipped in every household of Hoongla Tso village.

Tshering confessed to stealing the idol from the Tashi Choiling shrine at midnight on June 11 this year and burying it in a forest in Tawang the next day.

When inmates of the gompa found it missing the following morning, they filed an FIR with Lumla police station. The police launched a search immediately but did not find the idol.

Once the dust had settled, Tshering dug out the idol and set off for Kathmandu to meet a foreigner with whom he had struck a deal.

Tshering, however, had to break his journey at Bhalukpong because of a bandh in Assam.

He left the idol with Tashi and returned to Lumla on December 15, intending to return after a few days to collect his prized possession and head for Nepal.

Based on information culled from various sources, a police team led by Mosobi found him near Sela Pass, bordering West Kameng district. Tshering guided the team to Bhalukpong.

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