Poor sealing around mirror windows, partially broken boundary wall, and absence of iron grills around the seminar hall of department of sociology at Panjab University made it easy for thieves to take out at least 48 heritage chairs from the building at different instances.
“As many as 48 chairs could not have been stolen in one night, the thieves must have made repeated trips. Possibility of involvement of insiders cannot be ruled out. The seminar hall’s main door and the door next to it was locked. The theft of chairs came to light when one of the security guards observed movement behind curtains inside the hall through windows and concluded that the side wall fans were on. The guard called the peon, who opened the door, and realised wooden chairs were missing,” said police sources.
While 36 chairs out of 48 were stored in the seminar hall, two chairs were on the first floor and ten were in a room on the second floor. The thieves were selective and left the wooden mixed with iron chairs, which was not the design of French architect Pierre Jeanneret.
To reach the upper floors, the thieves removed the glass fitted in the ceiling and placed it back after taking out the chairs. “The incomplete boundary wall situated just 20 yards behind the sociology department helped the thieves to shift the chairs out of PU,” said a source. The boundary wall was rebuilt after theft came to light.
A visit to the sociology department suggests that the entrance of the hall is from the backside, barely 15 meters away from the boundary wall. On the opposite side of the boundary wall is the main road. Surprisingly, to block entry of any intruders through the back windows of washrooms, guards have placed thorn. “There were only two guards to look after at least three department buildings in the night. The department is open from the back, but it should be grilled. The ceiling around mirror windows has also gone poor,” said a guard requesting anonymity.
“We urged higher authorities to increase security and are also in the process of installation of CCTV cameras. We had used the seminar hall in October and the chairs were intact at the time. A few days later, a guard noticed that chairs were missing. I was informed about the incomplete boundary wall, which is now repaired,” said Rani Mehta, Chairperson, Sociology Department, PU.
“The possibility of an insider’s involvement cannot be ruled out. The local mastermind Sarfraz is in police custody. We will summon PU employees once the sequence of events is established. We are in the process of recovering all the stolen items,” said Crime branch Inspector HS Sekhon.
Sources said there are counted and uncounted heritage chairs stolen from PU. A team of the crime branch accompanying Sarfraz has gone to Mumbai to catch the other accused, and Sarfraz’s two associates – Usha and Naresh Mittal – were remanded in judicial custody.
Meanwhile, department superintendent Manjit Singh visited the crime branch in Sector 11 and has identified some of the recovered heritage chairs.
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