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RETRIEVED OVER 1,100 STATUES IN 6 YEARS

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Manickavel’s no non-sense attitude stands him in good stead

A steady stream of visitors from various walks of life were queueing up to meet Idol Wing chief A.G. Ponn Manickavel on Friday, his last day at work. Only, by the time the day was out, wishes for a happy retired life turned into congratulations on him getting an extension of tenure.

Mr. Manickavel, who was set to retire on Thursday, was given a year’s extension as a ‘Special Officer’ by the Madras High Court to continue investigating the several idol theft cases in the State. Having made significant breakthroughs in retrieving ancient idols, including those of Lord Nataraja and those of Cholan vintage, the police officer is set to continue investigating the 113 cases filed during his tenure.

During his tenure in the Idol Wing in various capacities, Mr. Manickavel struck fear among idol thieves, going on to arrest high profile art dealers of the likes of Subash Kapoor and Deenadayalan. He also had a hand in arresting some government officials for their role in the theft of idols.

Mr. Manickavel said during his six-year tenure in the Idol Wing, he had retrieved 1,129 statues, including metal and stone idols.

The Idol Wing, which was created in 1983, had never been as active as it was during his tenure, which is reflected in the number of recoveries made: more than 1,000 idols as compared with a mere 300 seized during the tenure of earlier officers.

Stickler for discipline

He joined the Indian Police Service in 1989 after discontinuing his doctorate in psychiatry.

Mr. Manickavel says he does not really have mentors, but has a huge respect for Walter Devaram for his thorough investigative work and acknowledges CBI officer Paramvir Singh for his guidance.

Mr. Manickavel, a stickler for police discipline, says he has had a no-nonsense attitude towards maintaining law and order, right from the day when he was posted in Ramanathapuram district in 1989, where rowdyism, smuggling and murder were the order of the day. Known for his unconventional methods, he also has a number of encounter deaths to his credit.

During his 28-year stint, the police officer, whose strength lies in his knowledge of criminal law, gained prominence for retrieving several stone idols and metal statues that were displayed at art galleries across the world.

“While I have been involved in retrieving more than 1,000 idols, bringing back the Lord Nataraja idol belonging to the Sripuranthan temple located near Ariyalur from Australia is easily the highlight of my career,” Mr. Manickavel signs off, as he gets ready for another year of uncompromising police work.

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