Shivamogga: The coveted Padma Vibhushan and Padma Bhushan, highest civilian awards conferred on the late Kuvempu, were stolen from the attic of his ancestral home-turned-memorial at Kuppalli in Thirthahalli taluk on Monday night.
Sources in Kuvempu Pratishtana, caretakers of the memorial, confirmed that the two top awards conferred on the poet in 1958 and 1988 respectively, besides three medals presented by various universities and Rs 1,000 in cash were stolen during the burglary between 7:30 pm and 8:30 pm.
The burglars had ransacked the house, damaging six surveillance cameras, out of 22, installed inside the house, the television and glass almirahs.
They also made a failed attempt to break open a locker. They gained entry by breaking the roof tiles using a ladder as door of the memorial remained closed.
Speaking to Deccan Herald, Kuvempu Pratishtana Assistant Secretary Kadidal Prakash said the burglary was the first of its kind in Kuppalli, the birth place of the poet laureate.
Around 12 employees work at the Pratishtana. Two security guards work in shifts everyday—one from 10 am to 8 pm and the other from 8 pm to 7 am. Visitors are not allowed after 6:30 pm.
The guard on duty had left about half an hour early, around 7:30pm, after locking the house as his wife had delivered a baby. The night watchman, too, was half an hour late in reporting for duty at 8:30 pm. The burglary took place during the intervening hour.
“We installed surveillance cameras in the ancestral house recently. We had plans to instal similar cameras at Kavi Shaila and other memorials built in memory of Kuvempu in Kuppalli. More than 1 lakh tourists visit this place every year. The burglary has shocked ardent followers of Kuvempu and the literary world. We have decided to strengthen security here to prevent recurrence of such vandalism,” the official said.
Security guard Manjunath said that he heard noise from the house when he came for the night shift.
Frightened, he summoned some local people and entered the house. But the burglars had escaped by then.
Superintendent of Police Ravi D Channannavar inspected the site.
He told reporters that the police had some clues and hoped to nab the culprits soon.