A day after the Idol Wing of the Tamil Nadu Police Department recovered five idols from the office premises of Chennai-based businessman Ranvir Shah, his counsel has denied that these were ‘discovered’ by the Idol Wing. He has stated that these recovered idols or ‘vahanams’ -- mythical animal escorts of a Hindu God -- were, in fact, part of voluntary disclosures made by the businessman.
In a statement released to the press on Monday, Thangarasu, Ranvir Shah’s counsel said, “After the Idol Wing seized items from Mr. Shah's residence on 27th September, we informed the Idol Wing on 30th September, vide a letter that we have some wooden vahanams on display at my client's other premises. A copy of the above mentioned letter has been submitted to the Hon'ble High Court Bench dealing with this matter. My client has never concealed or attempted to hide any objects that were in his possession from the authorities. My client also orally conveyed to the office of the Idol Wing that as these items are fragile, we were willing to transport them to the designated premises of the Idol Wing if they deemed it necessary. It is wrong and malicious for the Idol Wing to claim that the vahanams are a new discovery when, in fact, my client expressly conveyed their existence in his possession in good faith 5 weeks ago.“
'No more than 50 years old'
Stating that the Idol Wing was acting in a prejudiced manner and misrepresenting facts, Thangarasu further disputed the nature and composition of these wooden vahanams.
“..These wooden objects have, in fact, been at the premises for the past several years and are not made of sandalwood..Traditionally, vahanams are replaced every 24 years or so. Even at Jagannath Puri, the wooden idols are replaced every 12 years. In fact, temples are known to sell or dispose off older vahanams. Thus, vahanams are not usually made of the most sturdy or expensive wood. The vahanams my client possesses are no more than 50 years old.”
According to one report in the Times of India, Idol Wing officials reportedly recovered a seven-foot tall nandi, a six-foot tall narasimhar, a five-foot tall gomatha and an elephant statue from Ranvir Shah's apparel manufacturing unit near Race Course Road in Chennai's Guindy area.
'No intention to smuggle idols'
Following the raids, Idol Wing Deputy Superintendent of Police Sundaram told media persons that investigators had learned that there were plans to smuggle these ‘vahanams’ to foreign countries.
Disputing this, Ranvir Shah’s counsel stated that this was a deliberate effort to malign his client.
'No scientific/ archaeological basis for claims'
He also added that there was no scientific or archaeological basis for the Idol Wing’s claim that these idols were ancient. “The Idol Wing officers have wrongfully informed the press that these objects are 900 years old thereby misrepresenting facts to the press. As wood is perishable, it is highly unlikely that the vahanams are hundreds of years old.The Idol Wing officers have also claimed that the objects are made of sandalwood, which is completely false. These claims are ridiculous and have been done without any scientific or archaeological verification,” Thangarasu said.
Stating that the businessman was cooperating with the authorities and had "submitted all the validly registered certificates that are statutorily required for the objects that have been seized", his counsel said that Ranvir Shah had applied for anticipatory bail.