August 22, 2010

Indian artefact return proposals rejected by UK government

Posted at 2:30 pm in British Museum, Similar cases

India’s recent hopes of securing the return of some of their cultural heritage appear to have been rejected by the British Government. The fact is though, that they fall back on an outdated law as a defence of the status quo – neglecting the fact that if the political will existed, the law could easily be changed to allow restitution.

Times of India

Britain rejects ASI demand for artifacts
ASHIS RAY, TNN, Jun 4, 2010, 02.12am IST

LONDON: Britain has rejected Archeological Survey of India’s demand for the return of artifacts that were carted away from India, mostly illegally, during British colonial rule. The British foreign office said domestic laws prevented museums from removing items from their collection.

‘‘The British Museum Act 1963 prevents our national museums from removing items from their collections, with the exception of human remains and objects lost during the Nazi era, and government has no plans to change the law,’’ a spokesperson of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office said.

The spokesperson said people felt strongly about the restitution debate and that museum trustees take decisions relating to the items vested in their care and politicians don’t interfere. ‘‘It’s a long-established principle in the UK, supported by successive governments.”

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1 Comment »

  1. DR.KWAME OPOKU said,

    09.07.10 at 5:18 pm

    It is really a shame that one continues this rather unhelpful game in international relations. All of us know that if the British Government wanted to return the looted/stolen artefacts from India, as they should be, the law governing the British Museum could be changed. Besides, in International Law, it is the British Government that is responsible for dealing with such matters, particularly since it was the government that authorized most actions of forcible seizures, wars and looting. The British Museum was not directly responsible for such actions even if in specific cases, such as the invasions of Ethiopia and Benin it sent experts to advice the invaders what objects to take. It is time that Governments took demands for restitution a little more seriously. These issues are not going away by refusing to deal directly with them. Cultural artefacts are intimately connected with the culture and religions of a people and so long as the people concerned maintain their self-respect and identity, so long will they claim from former colonial masters the return of these precious objects. Colonialism cannot be said to have completely ended until the symbols of the subjugation of peoples have been returned to their rightful owners. Does Britain respect India as an equal partner in international relations? If so the British Government is clearly under an obligation to assist India in its quest for the return of its cultural artefacts from abroad, particularly those in British Museums and universities.
    What do the British people, as opposed to British museums gain by the retention of Indian cultural objects when such retention causes irritation among Indians?

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