How a theft of antique shawls from Crafts Museum reminded Delhi of a forgotten treasure trove
Police believe Vinay Parmar, the main accused, was inspired by Dhoom 2.
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They say you can find inspiration in all sorts of places. If Delhi Police is to be believed, Vinay Parmar found it in Dhoom 2.
Parmar and his cousin Tarun Harvodiya were arrested recently for stealing 16 antique Pashmina shawls, valued at Rs 2 crore each, from the National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, also known as the Crafts Museum.
Pashmina shawls command a high value in the international market. Representational photo/ India Today
The two had allegedly also managed to find a buyer, Delhi-based antique dealer Mohammad Adil Sheikh, who too has been arrested. For the uninitiated, Hrithik Roshan (Mr A) in Dhoom 2 steals, among other things, the British royal crown, a sword from a museum in Mumbai and Lydian coins during a heist in Rio de Janerio.
Parmar seems to have scaled things down proportionately. In Dhoom 2, Mr A had masqueraded as the British Queen, a Greek statue and a dwarf. Parmar chose to pose as a "research assistant".
Mr A targeted locations guarded with state-of-the-art equipment and the eagle eyes of ACP Jai Dixit. Parmar prudently struck the humble Crafts Museum in Delhi, where none of the CCTV cameras work.
But lack of glamour does not mean Parmar's efforts lacked imagination. Where most Delhiites overlook the Crafts Museum, he understood its true potential. The only regrettable bit is that he chose to benefit from the museum's bounties in a rather materialistic way.
Crafts Museum, which one?
The National Handicrafts and Handloom Museum, run by the government of India, is located near Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. According to its website, "at present, the museum collection consists of over 33,000 specimens in various crafts, acquired over a period of 60 years collected from various states of India… Museum collection consists of a variety of traditional artifacts such as textiles, a vast range of metal lamps, sculptures, utensils etc, Wood-works, Folk/tribal paintings, range of cane and bamboo crafts, clay and terracotta figures and a lot more."
The Crafts Museum is located near Pragati Maidan in Delhi. Photo: Facebook/Crafts Museum
"The exquisite examples of textiles include Kalamkaris, Jamawars, Pashmina and Shahtosh shawls, embroidered fabrics, especially Kanthas, Chikankari works and chaklas Tie and Die (Bandhani) fabrics, Baluchari and Jamdani saris, Pichwais, Phulkaris, Ikat fabrics of Odisha, Chamba Rumals, block-printed textile fabrics of Gujarat and Rajasthan, Himru textile pieces of Maharashtra, Naga shawls, Chanderi saris and a variety of tribal textiles of the Lambadi, Toda and Naga tribes of north-eastern India."
The museum showcases a fascinating collection of Indian textiles. Photo: Crafts Museum
The museum indeed has a lot to offer - the art forms showcased have fascinating stories, their motifs and methods shedding light on the history and culture of the states they originated in.
Going by the Delhi Police's account, Parmar seems to have been among the few to notice the museum and recognise its worth. Only, he chose to make himself rich rather than enrich his mind.
How the tale unfolded
According to the Delhi Police, Parmar, who is fluent in French and German, joined the museum posing as a researcher. For around two months, his research centred around some antique shawls made during the Mughal era, and their value in the international market. He also researched the security levels, entry and exit points of the museum.
Days before the crime, Parmar conducted a dry run where he managed to get locked inside the museum and then shouted at the security staff, who apologised and told him the CCTV cameras did not work.
With the help of his cousin, Parmar then stole the shawls on a Sunday, as the museum is shut on Mondays and the theft would not be discovered till Tuesday. The two were trying to sell the shawls when Parmar's SIM card gave him away in Kolkata and they were arrested.
In Dhoom 2, Mr A is forgiven by ACP Jai Dixit and begins a new life in Fiji. The Delhi Police might not be equally "nice" to Parmar. However, the very fact that security at the museum was so lax seems to show that even the government is not aware of the value of the artefacts.
While the court will decide Parmar's guilt or innocence, we too need to wonder why so many people have now come to know of the museum's existence and worth only through his story.