March 24, 2007

India’s culture ministry looks at ways to curb theft of antiquities

Posted at 12:55 pm in Similar cases

India’s culture ministry is consulting the Central Bureau of Investigation in the country over ways in which they can cut down on the level of looting of antiquities in the country.


Culture ministry consults CBI to curb antique theft
Posted on : Mon, 19 Mar 2007 13:18:00 GMT
Author : Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, March 19 Concerned over increasing theft of country’s priceless antiques, the culture ministry is consulting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for effective preventive measures and planning to amend the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, to make punishment for offenders stringent.

‘We know the number of theft cases, be it idols or artefacts, are increasing. Our ministry is really concerned about it and we are consulting the CBI to devise ways to curb it,’ Culture Secretary Badal K. Das said Monday.

‘CBI is the most efficient agency and we have asked them to help us in this matter as well. Our diplomatic missions in different countries have also been asked to be in touch with the respective countries to evade illegal smuggling of these articles,’ Das told IANS on the sidelines of the launch of the National Mission on Monuments and Antiques.

In January this year, 10 precious idols were stolen from a Jain temple in Gurgaon, on the outskirts of Delhi. The idols are made of ‘asthadhatu’ or eight metals, and some of them are up to five centuries old.

A 900-year-old idol, stolen from a temple in Uttar Pradesh, was recovered in Delhi and two persons were arrested earlier this month.

In another incident, three 700-year-old Jain idols costing Rs.130 million on the international market were recovered in Delhi last week from a man who allegedly planned to smuggle them out of the country.

Archaeological Survey of India Director General C. Babu Rajeev said: ‘We have already signed an agreement with China to stop illegal smuggling of these heritage items. Such agreements with other countries are in the pipeline.’

Das further said that India has a record of only 450,000 antiques but expressed confidence that the country is an inventory of millions of such artefacts.

‘It’s time to create a databank of all these pieces as they document the history and culture of the country,’ the culture secretary said.

India is engaged in dialogues to retrieve antiques from several countries. Indian authorities are talking to Britain to retrieve five sculptures from the British Museum, London, and five astronomical tools from Egypt.

Dialogue is also on for getting back one sculpture of Thirthankar from Washington, one sculpture of Nataraj from London and one sculpture of Varah from Switzerland.

While launching the National Mission on Monuments and Antiques, Tourism and Culture Minister Ambika Soni said her government is planning amendments to the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, to make the provisions more stringent with a view to curbing illegal trafficking in antiquities.

(c) Indo-Asian News Service

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