Emar mutt seer among seven held

Puri: Chief Mahant(seer) of ancient Emar Mutt here and six others were arrested on Wednesday for alleged theft of silver bricks from mutt complex, nearly a month after recovery of an empty box along with four similar ones containing 522 silver slabs, police said.

Mahant Maharaj Rajgopal Ramanuj Das, his disciple, two Puri-based silversmiths, a wholesale silver merchant of Cuttack, a mutt employee and a contractor were arrested for theft of silver bricks from one of the five boxes, Puri Superintendent of Police Sanjay Kumar told reporters here.

Around 3.4 quintals of silver was also seized while effort was on to trace the remaining bricks which had been kept in one box, he said adding the accused had disposed of the silver after cutting the bricks into small pieces and also melting the slabs.

As many as 522 silver bricks, weighing over 18 tonnes, stored in the other four wooden boxes at the Emar Mutt in front of the 12th century Sri Jagannath Temple here were found on February 26, the SP said. After the empty box was found during search of two sealed rooms in the mutt premises, a case of theft was registered and a thorough probe launched.

The silver bricks each weighing 38-40 kg were found after information given by a man who was arrested last month while selling a few stolen silver bricks, police said.

Two persons, identified as Barun Baral and Akshyay Das of Kuttam villager under Dhenkanal sadar police station, who had allegedly stolen a few bricks, were arrested on February 25 while trying to sell them in the market, they said.

Baral and Das were engaged as masons by the Orissa State Archaeology department during repair and renovation of the Mutt a few months ago. While working on the ceiling, a chunk of the cement plaster came off and fell on the wooden boxes below. To their utter surprise, they found wooden boxes filled with silver bricks in the abandoned room.

On the basis of information given by the two, the police on February 26 found the bricks with embossed seals of UAE, Japan, China and Dubai. Police said all the seven arrested persons would be produced before court tomorrow.

Emar Math is one of the several ancient Mutts in the temple town governed by the Orissa Religious Hindu Endowment Act while Sri Jagannath temple is managed by the Jagannath Temple Act.