Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh is famous as the birth place of Lord Rama. In this ancient religious town, policemen constantly guard the seated statue of Lord Rama. And yet, shockingly, in this heavily guarded place, the big Devkali statue of Lord Rama’s Kuldevi mother – an object of veneration right down from “Treta Yug,”has been stolen. This incident has created cynicism in the township of Ayodhya in Faizabad district. Not one, but three rare and divine statues of goddess Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi were stolen from the temple. This theft has left the Investigating Officer and the police department stunned and has led to urgent efforts to unravel the circumstances behind the theft. The police are investigating every angle and checking out
every nook and corner of the town. But the result so far is nil. The suspicion of the police centres on the ongoing managerial and proprietary dispute over this temple. The initial opinion of the police about the incident is that there is no involvement of international idol smugglers in this theft.
The line of reasoning of the Investigating Officer at the city Kotwali, Bhullan Yadav, is that the Garbhgriha of the temple had the statues of goddess Kali, Saraswati and Lakshmi and the wall was studded with ten kilos of silver as well out of which only one and a half kilos were stolen. Three big statues of “Ashtdhatu” are installed in the temple. The thieves have not even touched these statues. There is a court case going on in between priest Girijashankar Pathak and Mahant Ram Lakhan Pathak. The statues were registered under the antiques registration number F. Z. D. 220 in the year 1997 by officials in the name of Raja Jagdish Pratap Sahi of the state of Deara. The Raja has also applied for registration for the proprietary rights of this temple in the court and the decision is expected shortly. But currently, instead of a focused search for clues to this theft, the case is getting tangled in further complications. All classes of people from Ayodhya came out on the streets protesting against the theft. Market places were closed and agitations were being carried out in the town. Along with it the closing of doors of temples increased problems for the police.
Continuous incidents of thefts of idols from ancient historical temples in Ayodhya have become a challenge for the administration. The theft of idols from Devkali temple resulted in a sense of outrage in the town. Cases of idol thefts prior to this incident were not solved either and the latest thefts have therefore become an even bigger challenge for the police. When such types of incidents occur, the administration forms a police team to investigate the matter. But with the passage of time, the investigation of the case loses steam. On 20 March 2011 a case was registered at the Ayodhya police station for the theft of statues of Lakshman, Urmila, Vishnu, Shankar and Ganesha from the Sheshavtar temple along with their crowns, Chattra (umbrella) and Charan Padukaye (sleepers). This case was handed over to the Special Task Force (STF), but no results have been made public so far. In the same way, on 6 December 2009 thieves stole some ancient idols from the Hanuman temple which was situated just a few steps away from the Darshannagar police station, making a mockery of the strict security arrangements. Not a single clue has been found till date. On 21 February 2012, the idols of Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshman made of “Ashtdhatu” were stolen from the ancient Ramjanki temple by breaking the locks. The temple is situated in the Golbazaar area which falls under the Bikapur police station. When the priest and the local people protested strongly, a youth named Amit Kesharwani was gunned down by criminals. Only the idol of Lord Rama was subsequently recovered while the police could not trace the whereabouts of the other two idols. On 19 January 2006 three statues of Lord Rama, Janki and Lakshman were stolen from the Ramjanki temple of Baru situated in the same area. But no clue has been found by the police till date to these thefts. Under these circumstances, will the stolen statues of Devkali temple ever be recovered?
The answer to this question has become a huge challenge for the Uttar Pradesh police. Ironically, the sequence remains the same each time: whenever an ancient idols theft case is registered, the police displays more vigilance. After the theft of idols from the Devkali temple, meetings on security arrangements for temples once again gained momentum. However, it is not that the administration has not done anything substantial for the security of the ancient temples and the idols they house. But the security arrangements that have been made for the temples by the administration are limited. There are good security arrangements for Kanak Bhavan in Hanumangarhi. Apart from this, during festivals, police are posted at the temples of Nageshwarnath, Kshireshwarnarth, Bada Sthan, Choti Devkali, Janki Mahal etc. But there are numerous other temples where there are a lot of ancient idols made of “ashtdhatu”where neglect is leading to these templesbecoming decrepit and therefore no security arrangements are made for these temples. People too are unaware of the importance of these ancient idols and temples. After the theft of idols from the Devkali temple, the temple administration, priests and the State Administration are discussing security measures and initiatives which can be taken for the protection of an ancient heritage. There is a lot of talk about installing Close Circuit Television Cameras (CCTVs) in the temples. However it can be decided only when the next meeting is held between the priests, Temple Administration and the State Administration. Elaborating on this issue, the senior Superintendent of Police, Ramit Sharma, said that arrangements have been made from the side of the police for these temples. However, the installation of CCTVs would be an additional advantage from the security point of view. The decision on CCTVs would be taken but will the police take necessary steps in implementing the plans or will they continue with the old ritual of initially displaying zeal to solve the case and then running away from it ?