India’s Numismatic Institute under cross-fire

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by Björn Schöpe

July 10, 2014 – It is probably India’s only Numismatic Institute and has now been ordered to suspend the master course as M A Khan the university’s registrar stated. This affects all those who wanted to enrol in the MA course while current students will be able to complete the curriculum. This serious decision was taken following a rather grotesque affair that has not yet been clarified.

When Dinesh Mody, a renowned numismatist and judge at the Supreme Court, got in touch with Mumbai University, the institution was glad indeed. Because Mr Mody offered to donate his complete collection comprising some 25,000 Indian and world coins to a new museum he intended to build and, at the same time, he wished to put the country’s numismatic education on a sound basis by establishing a numismatic institute too. In 2002 (or 2005, online information are inconsistent regarding this point) the great day eventually arrived: the museum opened and the Dinesh Mody Institute for Numismatics and Archaeology (DMINA) was inaugurated. Both institutions cover an area of some 15,000 square feet. The institute offers only a master curriculum open to foreign students as well and dedicated in particular to Indian and Asian coins and currencies.

Although the DMINA is located at the university campus it is not administrated by the university. The founder is still head of the institution. Now, this set-up has come home to roost.

Dinesh Mody continued collecting privately which did not concern his donation because only coins purchased by him before 1993 were destined to go to the museum. In January 2014, however, Farokh Todywalla said that Mody offered coins in auction which he had once bought at a low price for the museum from him, Todywalla. The prosecutor is by no means an unknown person. Mr Todywalla is the president of the Mumbai Coin Society – and an auctioneer.
Behind this accusation stands indeed Mr Todywalla’s profession according to the DMINA director, Dr Dilip Rajgor: “Todywalla is an auctioneer himself. Since we approached another Ahemdabad-based auctioneer for the auction on February 2, Todywalla came up with false allegations.”
It is a bit foggy what exactly is the connection between the DMINA and Mr Mody’s private collection and there was no explanation in the media. Anyway, a judge decided that Mody was not allowed to sell coins belonging to the museum’s collection. The numismatist, however, always insisted that never even intended to do something similar.
In order to corroborate his position, Mody refers to the catalogue of all coins he had donated to the museum and that was said to be in the museum like the coins too.

On April 5 according to the media a university committee visited the institution. Later the university’s registrar stated that some gold and silver coins were missing and the strong box was empty. In addition the visitors saw only replicas of some of the gold coins and the original catalogue of the donated coins had also disappeared. Therefore the university has locked the museum and the strong room and will decide about the DMINA’s future.

Unfortunately the DMINA has no website of its own but is active on Facebook.

You can find the most recent article on that subject in the Times of India.

The Indian Express reported on the trial here and here.

Another article gives information on the history of the institute and the importance of a numismatic education in India.