Urges ex-curator SPS Museum to visit National Archives of India; HC calls for cooperation in probe
Srinagar: The Aurangzeb-era copy of the Holy Quran that was stolen from Shri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum here in 2003 may be with National Archives of India New Delhi, CBI hinted on Thursday.
“During investigation, it came to light that a holy book namely ‘Quran Sharief’ with similar features was confiscated by the Crime Branch of New Delhi. Accordingly, the authorities of National Archives of India, New Delhi, were approached and relevant information about the said seized “Quran Sharief” including its photographs have been collected,” the CBI informed the high court by submitting a compliance report through assistant solicitor general of India SA Makroo.
“Efforts towards its comparison with the available description of Holy Quran, alleged to have been stolen from SPS museum, are underway. The report vide which the ‘Quran’ presently kept in National Archives of India had been declared as an antiquity has also been collected from Archaeological Survey of India, New Delhi, and the same is under examination for the said purpose,” it said.
India’s premier investigation agency also revealed that it has created ‘scene of crime’ to ascertain the possible ways of the theft.
It said the persons, who were working at SPS Museum during the period when theft of the Quran took place, have been identified, and questioned intensively.
These persons include Nazir Ahmad Baroo, the then Museum Assistant; Mrs Shameema Bano, Attendant; Mrs Ulfat Rouf, Chemical Assistant; Ms Maheena Akhter, Junior Librarian; Abdul Aziz Bhat, the then in-charge of Manuscript Gallery; Ghulam Mohiuddin Wani, Research Assistant; Zameer Hassan Darzi, Steno-typist and Zahoor Ahmad Khan, photographer.
“Further certain necessary information and documents have been collected by the CBI from one Mushtaq Ahmad Beigh, the present curator of the museum and the same is under scrutiny,” said the ASGI Makroo.
The CBI has also requested Director Museums, Old Secretariat Srinagar, to depute Mir Jamshed Ahmad, the then curator SPS Museum, to visit the National Archives of India, New Delhi, and help it in ascertaining as to whether the ‘Quran Sharief’ kept with National archives of India is the same which has been stolen in 2003.
The CBI said that it was also scrutinizing the file pertaining to FIR (106/2003 in police station Rajbagh Srinagar) which has collected from the crime branch Srinagar.
“Necessary discussions with the officers of Crime Branch associated with the investigation of this case have also been made. However, since all the case diaries and statements of witnesses examined by the crime branch J&K are in Urdu language, its translation in English is underway,” the CBI said.
To rule out the stolen Holy Book’s availability at any other museum in India, the CBI said that it was completing a list from all the museums.
After perusing the report, court’s division comprising Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Muhammad Magrey directed all the authorities to cooperate with the CBI investigation. It also directed the CBI to file a fresh status report about the investigation before the next date hearing in the PIL, filed in 2008 by a Srinagar-based social organisation, Valley Citizen’s Council.
The petition seeks directions for the protection and conservation of artifacts, monuments and excavation sites in Kashmir besides directions to find the manuscript of the Quran and other prized articles.
Aurangzeb, the sixth Mughal Emperor, ruled over most of the Indian subcontinent during his reign, which lasted for 49 years from 1658 until his death in 1707.
The judicial intervention has already led to retrieval of 31 copper and silver coins besides a gun bearing accession number 412 along with other artefacts from Research Wing of the SPS libraries, which were gifted to Shimla Museum in 1973.
The other artefacts include a Persian manuscript, Mughazi-ul-Nabi by Sheikh Yaqoob Sarfi (RA), a 19th century Sharda Manuscript Panchratna by Krishna Pandit, and an 18th century painting by Swachanda Bhairva. Meanwhile, the government through additional advocate general B A Dar informed the court that in compliance to its directions, logistical support has been provided to CBI for conducting smooth investigation of the case. The court in September had handed over to the CBI to investigation into the theft the Holy Quran after Crime Branch failed to trace it.