Video: Support The India Pride Project 

Swarajya Staff

Apr 03, 2016, 11:46 AM | Updated 11:46 AM IST

Dancing Sambandar (Getty Images)
Dancing Sambandar (Getty Images)

Over 20,000 pieces of precious Indian art and artefacts have been smuggled out of India in the last three decades. The total value of such smuggled items could be in excess of 10 billion US dollars, although many of these artefacts are priceless from a cultural perspective.

What have our government’s been doing while priceless art was being smuggled out of India? Beyond isolated, small and ineffective measures the government has largely been a spectator.  A damning CAG report from 2013 states that India had not recovered *even one* piece of stolen-heritage between 2001 and 2012.

It is important to note that the smuggling of art work is systematic and well organised. Smugglers identify specific pieces, hack them from temples and forts, buy-off officials, smuggle across borders, use well-known auction houses and even have prominent art experts on their pay-rolls. Many of the stolen pieces are proudly displayed in museums and galleries around the world.

Frustrated with the state of affairs, a group of volunteers organised themselves to track, lobby and bring back art works smuggled out of India. They call themselves the India Pride Project.

This group identifies stolen artefacts, traces them to their origin and lobbies with museums and art houses abroad to return the priceless art works. Here are some of their success stories.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott himself handed over the idol of Sripuranthan Nataraja to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014

Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Durga idol to Narendra Modi in October 2015.

An exquisite bronze work of Alingana murthy - Shiva embracing Parvati has been handed over to US authorities for enquiries - thanks to the efforts of the India Pride Project.

A lot more needs to be done. The first step in stopping such reckless smuggling is to set up a National Antiquities Register to record and track all of India’s priceless art. The second step is to set up a team to persuade museums abroad to return smuggled items to India.

Meanwhile, the India Pride Project are going ahead with their efforts to bring back our art and our deities. They are literally bringing back ‘India’s gods’. Here’s wishing them all the best.

The India Pride Project are seeking support for their petition to the Government of India regarding the careless manner in which Indian art and heritage is being handled.  You can read more about the petition (and sign it if you like) at this link.

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