How do you understand the culture, history and richness of a place? There are so many things which take you closer to them, and artefacts are one of them. Artefacts are a representation of belongingness and the tradition that they carry with themselves. In the past 9 years, the Government of India, in assistance with several countries, has been successful in repatriating its artifacts that were once looted or stolen. This has helped in restoring a part of India’s heritage that it was once stripped of.
Recently, during the third G20 Culture Working Group (CWG) meeting in Hampi, Karnataka, it was announced that around 150 antiquities or artefacts are expected to be returned from the US in the next three to six months. Earlier, in 2021, PM Modi brought with himself as many as 157 artefacts and antiquities from the United States of America, handed over by the US during PM Modi’s visit to the country.
A Joint Effort needed
The bringing of historical objects back to the country is a process to restore India’s pride and an active step to appreciate and acknowledge the historical past of our country. The credit of bringing the antiquities to the country goes to the Ministry of External Affairs, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), CBI among several others with which the Ministry of Culture is working closely. Furthermore, one of the focuses of India’s foreign policy is the preservation and protection of Indian artifacts and cultural heritage.
The Union Government in May 2023, announced that 238 antiquities of Indian origin have been returned to the country since 2014, and 72 are in the process of being repatriated from various countries. As on April 24, 2023, a total of 251 invaluable antiquities of Indian origin have been retrieved back from different countries, out of which 238 have been brought back since 2014.
The ones repatriated include Navaneetha Krishna, from South India, retrieved from the UK in 2021. Meanwhile, in 2020, Nagaraja (The serpent King) stone sculpture, two Dwarpala, stone sculptures, limestone relief, a stone sculpture of Shiva (Nataraja), metal idols of Rama, Sita, Laxamana were also repatriated to the country.
Protecting Cultural Property
The UNESCO convention of 1970 enjoins on signatory parties to voluntarily return those artifacts belonging to other countries which have been taken because of colonial plunder, or because of post colonial misappropriation like smuggling, theft etc. Further, several countries are also making efforts to become signatory to the convention which will benefit India.
India is trying to have agreements with countries. For Instance, the Cultural Property Agreement is being negotiated between India and US that will enable the US authorities to intercept smuggled goods and artifacts and return them expeditiously.
The Ministry of Culture, India, is taking several steps to promote its heritage in the form of artefacts. In a step to do so, more than 2.8 lakh artefacts of ten Government museums and galleries under the Ministry of Culture have been made available for online access.