Darjeeling, September 14, 2017: Questions are being raised whether the incident that took place at Roy Villa, the house that Sister Nivedita breathed her last in Darjeeling was merely an incident of theft. The Ramakrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre (RKMNECC,) is located in this villa.
On Thursday morning devotees arriving at the Roy Villa, located on Lebong Cart Road, 4 km from Darjeeling, reported theft along with vandalizing. The Villa was empty at the time of the incident.
On entering the Villa, devotees found that both the main shrine and room where Sister Nivedita had passed away had been ransacked and vandalised. Photographs were torn and lay strewn on the floor. Glass cases were smashed. Window panes had been broken. The donation boxes had been forced open and looted.
The matter was reported to the police by Swami Nityasatyananda, the Centre Head, RKMNECC over the phone from Siliguri.
"The vandalism is not connected with the ongoing agitation. It appears to the handwork of thieves" claimed Akhilesh Chaturvedi, Superintendent of Police, Darjeeling.
"With news of the incident we rushed back to Darjeeling. It seems that the main door which is made of wood was smashed open along with the window panes. There seems to be a group of miscreants.
The main shrine was ransacked with the donation boxes forced open. Photographs were smashed and strewn on the floor. Similar was the fate of the room on the third floor where Sister Nivedita had breathed her last. It was vandalised. There seems to be some oily substance like Kerosene splattered on the wooden staircase. It seems that there could have been attempts to set the place on fire." stated Swami Nityasatyananda talking to Oneindia.
Around Rs. 60,000 was stolen from the donation boxes. All the signages inside the Villa marking the main shrine, the universal prayer room, meditation room were smashed up.
Roy Villa was owned by Dwarka Nath Roy, the brother-in-law of eminent scientist Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose.
An ailing Sister Nivedita, the main disciple of Swami Vivekananda, accompanied by Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and his wife Abala Bose had arrived at Roy Villa in October 1911 to spend the puja vacation. Many eminent personalities had visited her at the Villa at that time. Nivedita had breathed her last in the Villa on October 13, 1911 at the age of 43.
With the formation of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC) n 1988, the Villa changed hands from the State Government to the DGHC.
Interestingly during the Gorkhaland agitation launched by the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) since October 2007, Roy Villa was used as Gorkhaland Personnel (GLP- voluntary force under the GJM ) camp.
With the formation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) in August 2012, the Villa was again transferred to the Games and Sports Department of the GTA.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's initiative resulted in a barter between the State Government and the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) whereby the GTA handed over Roy Villa to the State in lieu of which the State handed over the Tenzing Norgay Youth Hostel to the GTA.
On July 10, 2013, on behalf of the Information and Cultural Department, Government of West Bengal, Gautam Deb, North Bengal Development Minister officially handed over the keys to the Roy Villa, to the Ramakrishna Mission to start the Ramkrishna Mission Nivedita Educational and Cultural Centre.
In the past also there have been incidents of threats and vandalizing at the Centre. During the formative days of the Centre in 2013, a group of people had arrived at the Villa and threatened the monks, asking them to leave.
Recently in July this year all the signboards of the Villa were smashed up and vandalised.
"It seems that there are people who want the Centre to close and the monks to leave" stated a resident.
The Centre is a favourite tourist spot with both domestic and international tourists visiting. Even West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee frequents the Centre.
"We vehemently condemn the incident. How can people stoop down so low as to vandalise a heritage. It is part of the rich history of Darjeeling. Whosoever is involved will definitely be brought to book" stated Gautam Deb, Tourism Minister, Government of West Bengal.