84 rare coins missing from SPS museum

Authorities haven't punished officials who took some of these coins


Srinagar, Mar 23: Dozens of rare coins are missing from SPS Museum at Lal Mandi, and in the absence of a proper record, there are apprehensions that hundreds of coins would have been stolen. And high on the list of suspects are some officials of the museum, according to a report submitted by a government committee.

The documents available with Greater Kashmir reveal that eight gold and 76 silver coins have been stolen from the museum.

The report prepared by the officials in 2003, after physical verification of Gold and Silver coins displayed in the museum, says, "As per a classification register, there are 62 gold coins classified under various accession numbers from serial numbers 1 to 61. Out of these only 54 are lying with present in charge of the collection, and eight gold coins are missing from the stock."

The missing gold coins, according to the officials maintaining the register, were lying with the then curator "for purpose of identification", but the register doesn't say what happened to the coins later.

Did the then curator return the coins? When this question was posed to the Director Archives, Archaeology and Museum, Qazi Khurshid Ahmad, he evaded a straight reply and uttered irrelevant comments: "I was not in the department when the report was submitted. What sin have I committed that you are filing stories against me. I know who the source behind these stories is. You can come to my office and we can talk in detail."

The deputy director, Archives, M S Zahid said he has no information about the issue. "If such a thing had happened, it should have been brought to my notice. I should have been taken into confidence. But it is news to me that some officials have conducted a physical verification of the coins. If the coins are missing, the authorities should have inquired about their whereabouts. And if they have been stolen, the authorities should file an FIR," he said.
About the missing 76 silver coins the report says, "The register maintaining record of the Silve Coins section is without pagination. "There are about 27,055 silver coins as per the General Accession Register but as per the Classification Register, there are only 27,026 in the concerned collection. This means 29 coins are missing in this section."

Another register, according to the report, shows 24421 silver coins instead of 24449, signifying that 28 silver coins are missing here as well.

The third register, according to the report, shows 19 silver coins lying with S L Raina, an official who has once been in charge of the coins section. The register is silent about these 19 silver coins.

The report says, "As already mentioned that in the 1900 AD, G B Bleazely the famous numismatist and then Accountant General of J&K State had identified more than two thousand coins. He has also prepared a list of these classified coins, a copy of the list is very much available in the reference library of SPS Museum, Srinagar. However, the list of coins prepared by him hardly coincides with the stock of silver coins housed in the Museum. Very few coins are classified in the classifications register. There classification detail is also subject to confirmation by the competent subject expert. For example S. No. 1 Accession No. 315 shows 24421 silver coins and medals. All the coins and medals are unclassified and unidentified. There is every possibility of easy exchange and easy replacement of rare coins by common ones."

The collection of thousands of rare coins has not been cataloged so far, thus making the collection prone to theft by the officials and burglars.

The storage of coins is unscientific and insecure. Most of them have developed rust due to poor preservation and scores have been kept in unsafe cotton cloth and century old bags. These torn bags have been kept in lockers.

During the physical verification, the concerned officials lamented at what they called "the unfortunate state of affairs" in the department. "The classification register that was provided to the physical verification committee does not seem to be the original because it is without pagination, attestation by the competent authority, and the weight of no coin is recorded on the register," the report reads.

The classification registers before 1980 were not shown to the probe committee comprising then assistant director Archives Jammu, Peerzada M Ashraf; Conservator Assistant Dogra Art Museum (Jammu), Kirpal Singh; and Peer Muhammad Iqbal, the then store keeper of the Museum.

The committee, however, has not recommended any course of action to recover these coins. All they recommended is how to preserve the priceless treasure by their proper cataloging, weighing, identification of genuine coins, procurement of coin coffers and fire proof lockers, chemicals for their preservation, and the services of numismatic experts for proper and attractive display of these coins.

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