Stolen San Jose statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj found in the lobby of a building

Mayor Ron Gonzalez of San Jose receiving the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj statue in 1999. From left: Suneel Kelkar, President of San Jose Pune Sister City Organization, Mayor Ron Gonzalez, Vijay Pendse – another founding member of SJPSC, whose idea it was to set up the sister city relationship.

Ritu Jha-

The statue of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, stolen from Guadalupe River Park in San Jose City has been found. Raj Chahal, councilmember of District 2, San Jose, told indica: ”I have good news! The Shivaji statue has been found.”

Chahal said he was informed of the discovery by Joseph Hedges, international program manager, City of San Jose Office of Economic Development. It was found at a San Jose metal shop.

“The statue was found in the lobby of the business by a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News,” Hedges said over email. “He contacted me late this morning and sent a photo of the statue. We contacted the San Jose Police which reached the spot and secured the statue. It is in their possession and will be returned later to the City’s Parks Department. We are obviously very happy to have the statue found which is due to the splendid work of Gabriel, the Mercury News reporter.”

Hedges added, “The City staff will check the statue once returned and decide on the best course to have the statue reinstalled for public display.”

The four-foot statue of the iconic 17th-century Maratha ruler was a gift to San Jose from its sister city Pune in Maharashtra, India. It was reported missing on January 31 The police said it was sawed off from the legs.

The police had indicated that it was not a hate crime and that the robbers may have wanted the metal to earn money.

Arjun Batra, newly appointed councilmember of the City of San Jose, District 10, had told indica on February 8, “The statue is very important and San Jose values the Sister City relationship with Pune which was established in 1992. The statue was installed in 1999. A lot of visitors, especially people from India, visit the park specifically to catch a glimpse of the statue. They love to see the legendary Shivaji Maharaj’s statue displayed in the US.”

The park’s administration had alerted all the scrapyards nearby, in case somebody tries to sell the metal. Batra believed that unlike the other incidents of Gandhi statues being vandalized in the US, this crime may have more to do with theft.

“It does not look like a hate crime,” Batra said. “Though it is difficult to say anything definitively till the culprits are caught or evidence of the incident is recovered, to me, it looks like an act of vandalism or theft.”

President of San Jose Pune Sister City Organization Sunil Kelkar had expressed shock over the incident. He had told indica, “It’s appalling. I was told that somebody used a big saw to cut the four legs of the statue and then took it away. We suspect they may have stolen it for selling the material and to make some money. In 1999 it was a gift from the people of Pune to the people of San Jose in 1999. I think this was the first statue of Shivaji Maharaj in the US.”

Recalling how Pune became a sister city to San Jose, Kelkar said that then made a presentation to the city council and explained to them how the two cities can work together to improve relationships between different people.

“The statue has deep religious and cultural meaning. Stealing it is an assault,” president of the Sister Cities International Foundation and chair emeritus and global envoy for the Sister Cities International Network Tim Quigley said. “The monument has been a symbol of San Jose’s commitment to peace and mutual respect. The thieves do not realize that it’s really an assault on the spirit of this connection. It was very fabric of San Jose and very texture of who we are as a community. I hope the culprits may have a change of heart and do the right thing.”

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