A dagger gifted to former prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru by Saudi Arabia has been stolen from the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library. The theft came to light when an attendant noticed a broken glass frame in the museum Tuesday afternoon and alerted officials, who contacted the police.
The government-run museum is located at the highly secure Lutyens’ Zone at Teen Murti Marg. The gifts gallery, where the dagger was placed, does not have any CCTV cameras, police said. The spot is just a few steps from the bedroom where Nehru breathed his last on May 27, 1964. His house had been turned into a museum after his death.
Police said a case of theft has been registered at Chanakyapuri police station and a hunt is on to nab the accused.
“Since the matter was sensitive, senior police officers also arrived at the spot. A metal dagger, around five to six inches long, was missing from the tray. The glass frame it was kept inside was broken,” said a police officer.
Deputy Commissioner of Police Jatin Narwal confirmed the incident and said an investigation is underway.
“The museum was closed on Monday and the dagger was seen till Monday evening,” N Balakrishnan, an official on special duty at the museum, told The Indian Express. He said the dagger had been gifted to Nehru when he was prime minister.
“There are a lot of gifts, we keep changing their places. The dagger’s place was not fixed. We cannot estimate its cost, but it was precious,” Balakrishnan said.
According to officials, the building has no CCTV cameras and there are only 30 private security guards meant to look after the museum, a planetarium, a library and an auditorium.
“The guards come in shifts. During the day, there are about 12 to 15 for all the buildings. Armed personnel of the Indo Tibetan Border Police guard the outside of the buildings,” said an official.
Balakrishnan said they were in the middle of restructuring the security apparatus when the theft took place. “We are already in the process of restructuring the security arrangements. The proposal for CCTV cameras has been sent to the government.”
The museum was open to visitors on Tuesday, but the gift gallery section from where the dagger was stolen remained shut.
Police sources said they are probing whether some insiders were involved. Several employees and workers have already been questioned, sources said.