The probe into the missing temple idols in Tamil Nadu (numbering more than 5,000 idols) took a new turn over the last two days as a team of police officials gave a complaint to State Police chief TK Rajendran against AG Ponn Manickavel, special officer heading the wing, alleging harassment by the latter.
A team of 12 idol wing officials called on the SPC and submitted the petition against Ponn Manickavel. Later they spoke to the media, a hitherto unheard practice in Tamil Nadu Police. Manickavel remained incommunicado.
The petitioners said that the Special Officer was forcing them to book cases and investigate them without necessary evidence. “Officers who do not follow his instructions are being scolded and intimidated by the special officer,” said one of the officials.
But devotees are of the view that this petition has been submitted with the intention to sabotage the probe into the stolen idols.
“Somebody in the Government does not like the probe to reach the logical conclusion and the booking of culprits. No police officer would dare to submit a petition against his superior without support for the department officials as well as politicians,” said Jebamani Mohanraj, a former CBI official who had probed the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case.
He pointed out that Ponn Manickavel was appointed as officer on special duty by the Madras High Court on the day of his superannuation from service. “The court had full trust in Manickavel and that was why he was given extension of service. There were no complaints against Manickavel for the 35 years he served the police department. Perhaps the authorities and those who were against him might have felt that once he retires from service, the probe into the missing idols too would come to an end,” said Mohanraj.
The missing temple idols are worth thousands of crores and many officials of the Hindu Religious & Charitable Department were under the scanner of the Idol Wing. All major political parties in the State had staged protest demonstration against Ponn Manickavel for arresting of HR&CE officials.
“More than 7,000 antique and ancient idols have been missing from the temples and the HRCE officials are silent about the same,” said Rama Gopalan, leader, Hindu Front, an umbrella organisations of various Hindutwa outfits in Tamil Nadu.
Manickavel had retrieved the ancient bronze idols of Raja Raja Chola I and his royal consort Lokama Devi which went missing from Thanjavur Big Temple more than 50 years ago. These idols are valued more than Rs 150 crore in international market.
A former police chief said that the move against Manickavel smacked of a kind of cover up. “We have to find out the reason behind the disappearance of these temple idols. There is every chance of a major conspiracy behind the theft of these idols. The motive could be to shut down the temples. Once the idols go missing, the temples too get shut down,” he said.
Mohanraj said the phone calls made and received by the officers should be probed. “It is interesting to note that complaints against Manickavel were made after it was known that the Madras High Court had quashed the government order transferring the idol theft case to the CBI and Manickavel was given an extension,” he said.
Rangarajan Narasimhan, a vedic scholar based in Tiruchy, said that Manickavel was running a race with one of his legs tied. “He is not getting any help from he government r the government lawyer while arresting the suspects. The idl missing cases has both the DMK and the AIADMK leaders as accused,” said Narasimhan.
The mystery behind the missing idols and the vanishing temple lands (50,000 acres have disappeared) are becoming curious by the days and has snowballed into a major scam.