A wristwatch gifted to former Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri, by his Russian counterpart Alexei Kosygin has been stolen from Shastri’s memorial in the Capital.
The memorial, which houses some of the most important historical artifacts and is adjacent to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi’s residence, does not have even a single CCTV camera.
The theft came to light on September 3, a Thursday, but the authorities of Lal Bahadur Shastri Memorial initially kept mum about it. They reported the matter to the police four work days later.
Memorial director, Prof AK Das, approached the police on Wednesday to report about the theft of the golden wristwatch, gifted to Shastri during the 1966 Tashkent conference to broker peace with Pakistan.
The memorial was opened in May 2005. Each day around 600 visitors come to look at the memorabilia.
The memorial authorities are still clueless about the way the theft was carried out. Kundan Singh, assistant curator at the memorial, said, “The showcases are kept locked. We do not know how they managed to open it.”
This is however not the first time a burglary has taken place at the memorial. In 2004, before the memorial was set up, two almirahs, which contained official documents, were stolen. However, the police managed to recover them later.
Das told police that an internal inquiry was conducted by his staff but could not locate the watch and hence they decided to lodge a complaint.
After registering a case of theft, police searched the premises and collected fingerprints from the building.
The plot where the memorial stands was Shastri’s residence. It was turned into the memorial after the death of Shastri’s wife Lalita Devi, and all the articles used by the former prime minister were kept in it. The memorial displays his rare photographs, watches, and the overcoat he wore in Tashkent, among other things.
Anil Shastri, son of the former prime minister, said the suspects in the case are an unidentified couple and another man who spent more than the usual time inside the room on September 3.
“My father, when he returned from Russia, called me and asked whether I would like to wear the gold watch. He was a simple man and he told me that he would not wear it. I wore it for 40 years and when the memorial was inaugurated in 2005, I donated it to the museum,” he said.
Police said security arrangements at the memorial were not up to the mark.
“There were no CCTV cameras. The showcases were not locked,” said a senior police officer, on the condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Anil Shastri also said installation of CCTV cameras at the memorial was being planned. “We have written to the authorities,” he said.