Art of stealing? Thieves had free run at Ravi Shankar’s Yamuna fest

  • Karn Pratap Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Mar 15, 2016 14:17 IST
People wade through slush at the festival organised by the Art of Living foundation in New Delhi. Most of the thefts occurred after the weekend rain, police said. (Hindustan Times)

A 29-year-old Russian national was among 112 people whose belongings were stolen during a controversy-ridden cultural festival organised by spiritual guru Ravi Shankar’s Art of Living Foundation in Delhi over the weekend.

Police said on Tuesday that 72 complaints, most of them related to theft, were filed during the three-day World Culture Festival that concluded at the Yamuna floodplains on Sunday.

The event, attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, came under the scanner of the national environmental watchdog following allegations that the event will cause irreparable damage to the fragile floodplains of the river.

Read More | NGT panel to visit Yamuna floodplains, assess damage caused by AoL event

The event got official sanction at the last moment after the National Green Tribunal asked the organisers to pay Rs 25 lakh of a Rs five crore fine before the start. The rest will be paid over three weeks.

Police said more than 30 pickpockets and thieves, including three women, were caught by police and public from the venue. Booked under relevant IPC sections, the accused were sent to jail.

Most of the 72 FIRs registered at the Sunlight Colony police station till Monday evening are related to theft of cash, mobile phones, laptops, wallets, identifications documents and even an idol of Ganesha, stolen from a stall set up at the venue.

Forty complaints related to lost mobile phones and other articles were filed online through Delhi Police’s mobile and web-based ‘Lost and Found App’.

Read More | AoL event: Big cleanup begins after 3 days of culture fest

The Russian woman had come to India to participate in one of the events scheduled on the concluding day at the culture festival. Her bag, containing her costumes for the event and other belongings, went missing from the green room, minutes before her performance.

The artist could not participate in the programme, an eyewitness said, adding she could not hold back her tears when her name was announced for the event.

“We registered an FIR on her complaint. Efforts are on to recover her stolen items,” said Mandeep Singh Randhawa, deputy commissioner of police (south-east).

According to the DCP, the arrested thieves are mostly from northeast Delhi besides other states such as Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Haryana.

Two passports of citizens of Netherlands and Sri Lanka and one of an Indian were recovered by the police from the venue.

In pics | And that’s how Art of Living’s World Culture Festival ended

Senior police officers said a majority of the theft and missing articles complaints were received following rains that turned the ground muddy, leading to people slipping and falling.

“Even police personnel fell due to the muddy and slippery land,” said a police officer.

A highly decomposed body of a 35-year-old man was also discovered from near the venue on Monday morning. The police, however, claimed that the incident had no link with the culture festival as the body was probably brought down by river current to the floodplain.

Read More | Have pride in India’s legacy: Modi’s swipe at critics of AOL

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