Kerala archaeology department says Monson Mavunkal’s collections are fake
The Kerala archaeology department on Sunday submitted a preliminary report to the special investigation team (SIT) saying 35 main artefacts found in the museum of controversial antique collector Monson Mavunkal, including the throne of erstwhile Mysore king Tipu Sultan, are fake.
It has also sought a detailed examination of ancient copper inscriptions (chembola) found in the possession of Mavunkal which, he claimed, carried important information about the hill temple Sabarimala, a senior official of the department, who did not want to be named, said.
The so-called copper plates were in news in 2018 when the state witnessed widespread protests over the Supreme Court’s decision to open temple doors to women of all ages. Copper inscriptions allegedly claimed that the temple was an erstwhile Buddha ‘vihar’ and women of all ages were allowed there. Though the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) supported his findings initially, it later disowned them when he got into a raging controversy and was arrested in September.
In the report, the archaeology department said most of these artefacts were locally made and had no antique value attached to them, said the official. Mavunkal sat on this throne most of the time and forced visitors, including former state police chief Loknath Behra, to sit on it. He used these photos to intimidate those who turned against him. After taking over the case, the SIT approached the archaeology department to examine his claims.
Inspector-General of Police A Lakshmana was suspended last month over his alleged liaison with the master conman. The Kerala High Court had pulled up senior police officials and wondered how such a man got their patronage and support while hearing a case related to him. Later the government was forced to suspend the IG.
Mavunkal is now facing eight cheating cases and another under the protection of children from sexual offences act (POCSO) for allegedly raping the daughter of his former employee. He was finally arrested on September 26 after five businessmen complained to chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan of being cheated of ₹10 crore. Later, many other businessmen also filed cheating complaints against him. A rape survivor also alleged Mavunkal forced her to withdraw the complaint against her tormentor.
The government constituted the SIT which later recorded the statement of an Italy-based Malayali woman, Anitha Pullayil, who is believed to have introduced many senior police officers to Mavunkal. He allegedly used his connections with the officers to cheat and intimidate gullible antique buyers. He claimed the antiques in his possession included the staff of Moses, a piece of fabric from a garment worn by Jesus, and a dahi handi (butter pot) used by Lord Krishna.
Pullayil has now sought to distance herself from Mavunkal. She told news channels that she had advised those cheated by him to approach the police. Pullayil added she was unaware of his shady deals and started avoiding him after she got an inkling regarding some of them. Details of a cover-up and laxity came to light after his arrest. Many police officers regularly visited his house, museum and a cosmetology clinic in Kochi that he ran on the basis of a fake degree.
Till his arrest, he was known as Dr Monson Maunkal, a Germany-returned cosmetologist. Later, the SIT found that he only studied till higher secondary and never visited any foreign country. The Enforcement Directorate has also started a probe against him on charges of money laundering.