Two persons, including a woman, were arrested on Monday for allegedly stealing a 12th century idol of Terton Pema Lingpa, a highly revered saint in Buddhism. The idol, worth several crore rupees, was stolen from the house of Head Cheepa (Head Lama) in Tawang district of Arunachal Pradesh on the intervening night of May 31 and June 1, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Crime) Madhur Verma said. The accused wanted to exact revenge from Cheepa after his marriage with the latter’s daughter ended up in divorce.
On June 4, the crime branch of Delhi Police received information that the accused are trying to sell the 900-year-old idol in the grey market of Majnu Ka Tilla for Rs 1.40 crore. From there the idol was supposed to be smuggled to Tibet, Verma said. He said that they received crucial inputs from Arunachal Pradesh Police and took action accordingly.
A team led by Assistant Commissioner of Police (Crime) Sanjay Sehrawat laid a trap near the Majnu Ka Tilla Gurudwara around 8 AM to nab the accused, he added. The accused – Ngawang Tsundue (29) and his live-in partner Lobsang Gakey Sherpa (26) were arrested from there when they arrived to meet a prospective buyer, Verma said. Police recovered a golden-coloured idol from Tsundue’s bag and some religious clothes were recovered from Sherpa.
Tsundue, who is a permanent resident of Tibet, came to India in 2009-2010. He started living in Dharamsala, where he met the daughter of Head Cheepa of Tawang. He was working in a medicine shop there. In 2011, he married her but the couple got divorced last year. He wanted to take revenge from Cheepa’s family and knew that stealing the idol would earn him a huge amount and it will also tarnish Cheepa’s name. He started planning the theft with his live-in partner. He knew that the idol was kept at Cheepa’s home and was only taken to the monastery for special occasions, Verma said. The accused was aware that Cheepa’s family has gone to attend a function in Kullu and used the opportunity to steal the statue from his home. There was an old woman present at the home when the burglary happened.
The incident had generated social and religious unrest in Tawang, the DCP said, adding that they have informed their counterparts in Arunachal Pradesh.