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US hands over 105 stolen antique artefacts to India

The repatriation ceremony for 105 antiques which was held at the Indian Consulate in New York on Monday (Pic. Courtesy Twitter/@SandhuTaranjitS)

As many as 105 trafficked antiquities have been returned to India by the United States and will be back in India soon, officials say. A repatriation ceremony for these objects was held at the Indian Consulate in New York on Monday.

The handing over follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the USA last month during which the two countries agreed to sign a Cultural Property Agreement for the smooth repatriation of such antique artefacts and to check the illegal trafficking of these heritage items.

The objects that are coming to India cover a period of 1,600 years – from the 1st century BC to the 15th century AD.   These include a terracotta Yakshi plaque belonging to the 1st century BC, which was stolen from ‘eastern India’; a red sandstone Dancing Ganesha from the 9th century, with its provenance in central India; a 10th century Kubera, also belonging to central India, and several other valuable antiquities and objects in mediums such as marble, terracotta and sandstone.  Several of these items were reportedly smuggled abroad illegally through jailed antique dealer Subhash Kapoor.

Officials disclosed that the 105 artefacts represent a wide geographical spread in India. Around 50 artefacts relate to religious subjects of Hinduism, Jainism and Islam while the others are of immense cultural significance.

Once the objects reach India, the ASI (which functions under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture) also decides if the object is to be returned to its original place, and handed over to the respective state government, or whether to display them at a museum dedicated to repatriated antiquities at Purana Qila in Delhi.

During his visit to the US, Prime Minister Modi had expressed happiness over America’s decision to return more than 100 stolen antiquities to India. “I am happy that the American government has decided to return more than 100 antiquities of India that were stolen from us. These antiquities had reached the international markets. I express my gratitude to the American government for this,” Modi had said.

India is also looking to sign an agreement with the UK to prevent trafficking of antiques.