Over 150 artefacts yet to be retrieved

More than 150 archaeological artefacts have been stolen from Bangladesh National Museum at different times but none of them could be retrieved.

Archaeologists said many priceless treasures were also stolen from museum bus but the government failed to take effective measures to recover them.

Recently, at least 26 medals and coins were stolen from History and Classical Fine Arts Department under Gallery 21 of Bangladesh’s premier museum.

On June 26, museum secretary Alarm Ara filed a case with Shahbagh police but the case did not specify when the theft had taken place.

On June 2, the museum filed a general diary citing that 26 artefacts have been stolen but it bore no date of occurrence.

Allegations are there that the museum is trying to hush it up.

Confirming the theft, the museum’s director general Prakash Chandra Das told bdnews24.com, “The artefacts have been missing since March.”

He also spoke of different measures to stop the recurrence of theft.

Meanwhile, regarding those missing for long, he said, “I do not know how many items were stolen or missing. I don’t know how many were recovered or whether they were recovered at all.”

Inquiries have revealed that not only 26 but over 150 artefacts have been stolen from National Museum.

Professor Sufi Mostafizur Rahman told bdnews24.com, “Probe committees were formed at different times after every theft incident but no efforts proved fruitful for a lack of sincerity.”

A record of missing priceless items was prepared but the record itself is missing.

Former museum chief Enamul Haque admitted to the record gone missing in Dhaka’s Second Additional Sessions and Special Judge’s Court on May 24, 1984.

The biggest ever theft took place in 1981-82.

Some museum officials told bdnews24.com that a total of 144 artefacts were stolen during the two years.

The artefacts include statues of Hindu gods Bishnu, Ganesh, Sarsawati, Nani Gopal, and Bronze Statue, Black Stone Statue and other historic treasures.

A case was filed against two officials on theft charge and the detective police carried out the investigation. But the probe report did not see the light.

Of the stolen artefacts, the most important one was museum’s founder Nalinikanta Vattrashali’s rare collection-Statue of Bishnu. Vattrashali collected the statue from Sialdi village under Sirajdikhan in Munshiganj.

A publication titled ‘A General Guide to the Dhaka Museum’ marking the golden jubilee of Dhaka Museum in 1964 had a pictorial description on the Statue of Bishnu.

The publication also claimed that many more historic artefacts were missing from museum.

Sources close to the museum said that a theft took place on July 3, 1991 when a handle of Lion statue-like throne owned by Digapatia’s great king was stolen by breaking the showcase of Gallery 20. The theft was committed by cutting grill on the third floor of the museum.

The authority confined its responsibility to just filing a theft case. The investigation of the case met the same fate as the earlier ones. As a result, the priceless treasures of the country went missing for ever.

Theft incidents went on unabated. A good number of old silver coins went missing from a museum bus in November in 1981. No case was filed when a silver dish (pandani) was stolen from Museum’s preservation laboratory in 1981.

Many more artefacts were stolen in 1981 but the museum had neither tried to capture the thief nor taken any step to retrieve the stolen treasures.

A publication ‘Bangladesh National Museum: Whitepaper for 30 Years’ Corruption’ appearing in 1998 alleged that instead of filing case, the official report cited the theft incidents.

There was a countrywide uproar over sending artefacts to a museum in France for exhibition during immediate past caretaker regime.

Allegations are rife that not all the artefacts were sent back home after the display.

Many historic artefacts were stolen at different times and investigation reports were also produced, some museum officials said and added that all the records were also stolen over the years.

Professor Sufi Mostafizur Rahman said, “Archaeological treasures are not being properly preserved for a lack of experts in our museum. The museum will have to create world class security measures to prevent theft.”

bdnews24