Hazaribag: Five policemen, including an assistant sub-inspector, were suspended on Monday, a day after two ancient Buddha idols were stolen, setting off a political storm and protest from Buddhist groups. A special investigation team (SIT) has also been formed to probe the theft. The idols were stolen from an Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) excavation site at Bahranpur in the foothills of Sitagarha and Silwar hills of Hazaribag.
Talking to TOI, SP Karthik S said, “The stolen idols were made of sandstone. We have formed an SIT led by SDPO Mahesh Prajapati and raids are being carried out at several locations, both within and outside the state, to recover the idols. Meanwhile, we have suspended five policemen who were given the task to look after the security of the excavation site. They have been replaced by a fresh team.”
Over a dozen Buddha idols and a few Hindu statuettes were recently found during an excavation in Bahranpur by the ASI. Rajendra Deori, the director of ASI (Patna), said despite the theft, they will continue with their excavation work.
Meanwhile, irked by the theft, several members of a Buddhist organisation, Bhikshudham, from Agra (Uttar Pradesh) reached the excavation site on Monday. The national president of the organisation, Dham Rakshit, said, “Our delegation will soon meet officials of the Union and the state governments in this regard. The discoveries are of historical and religious significance and the governments must take them seriously.”
Opposition BJP criticised the state government over the theft and accused it of laxity. Hazaribag MP Jayant Sinha said, “The incident is a classic case of negligence on the part of the Hazaribag administration and the Jharkhand government.” Manish Jaiswal, the BJP MLA from Hazaribag (Sadar), said despite the state government’s assurance to the Assembly of safeguarding the archaeological treasures during the ongoing Budget session, the police machinery failed to prevent the theft.
Replying to the charges of BJP, Hazaribag district Congress president Awadesh Kumar Singh and JMM minority cell chief Ruchi Kujur claimed that the idols were stolen owing to the negligence of the district administration and not that of the state government. They said that had proper lighting arrangements been made at the excavation site, the incident could have been averted.