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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 March, 2004, 15:37 GMT
Bengali poet's Nobel medal stolen
Rabindranath Tagore
Tagore means as much to Bengalis as Shakespeare to the English
Police in the Indian state of West Bengal say the priceless Nobel prize medal of renowned poet and author Rabindranath Tagore has gone missing.

Visitors to the museum dedicated to him in Shantiniketan first noticed the disappearance at daybreak.

The Nobel medal for literature and certificate as well as some personal possessions were taken from a locked showcase in the museum.

Tagore became the first non-Westerner to win the literature prize in 1913.

West Bengal's Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharya - a fan of the poet who is said to mean the same to Bengalis as Shakespeare to the English - described the theft as a "horrible incident".

This is a national disaster
Sankho Ghosh,
Bengali poet
"We will arrest the culprits and recover the Nobel Prize at any cost," he said.

Police have been sent from Calcutta to aid the investigation into the break-in.

A wristwatch, several rare paintings and gold medals were among the items taken, though no manuscripts by the poet who lived from 1861 to 1941 are missing.

The museum, part of the Visva Bharati university which was founded by Tagore in 1921, was closed on Wednesday and it is unclear exactly when the items were stolen.

Artist outrage

Tagore is one of modern India's greatest poets and composer of both the Indian and Bangladeshi national anthems.

There are elements - particularly among Islamists in Bangladesh - who are opposed to Tagore's largely secular legacy.

But poets, scholars, filmmakers, politicians and literature buffs all expressed profound shock and dismay at the incident on Thursday.

"What do I say? This is a very serious incident," said acclaimed filmmaker Mrinal Sen.

He hoped that the authorities would take swift steps to find the stolen articles. "A thing like this shouldn't have happened."

Sankho Ghosh, a Bengali poet, denounced the theft: "This is a national disaster."

The BBC's Allyson Griffiths
"The only Indian to win a Nobel Prize for literature"

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