- The artifacts are worth Rs 667, which is $100 million USD
- Subhash Kapoor, who is believed to be involved in antiquities theft in different nations, now awaits trial in India
- Apart from the United States, other countries are also returning stolen items to India
On Tuesday, June 7 at a ceremony at the Blair House (Washington), the United States returned over 200 artifacts to India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Some of the pieces are nearing 200 years old, and many were stolen from religious sites. Collectively, the pieces are worth Rs 667, which is $100 million USD. The returned items consist of religious statues, bronze and terracottas items.
Among the items stolen was a statue of Saint Manikkavichavakar which represents a Hindu mystic and poet from the Chola period. Saint Manikkavichavakar’s statue was stolen from Chennai’s Sivan Temple. Also among the artifacts was a bronze sculpture of Ganesh. This sculpture is believed to be 1,000 years old.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Usually relationship between the countries of the world are very often covered by the present. It is the present that plays a big role, but sometimes heritage becomes important in the relations of two countries. Sometimes what cannot be done by living persons is done by idols.”
The investigation can be dated back to 2007, when special agents of Homeland Security Investigations received word that seven crates of artifacts were making a trip to America. This shipment was coordinated by Subhash Kapoor, owner of New York’s Art of the Past Gallery. Kapoor now awaits trial in India along with five other people who were arrested in connection to this case.
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Due to this these events both the governments and law enforcements are more acutely aware of the artifact trafficking that goes on across borders. They are not only working to end the transferring of artifacts, but they aim to return the items back to where they belong.
Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson had some words of wisdom, but was not able to attend the ceremony of returning the artifacts. He stated, “Protecting the cultural heritage of our global community is important work and we are committed to identifying and returning these priceless items to their countries of origin and rightful owners.”
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The United States is not the only country returning stolen items. Over the past two years many countries have set out to return items that are rightfully India’s. The Prime minister also went on to say, “For some, these artifacts may be measured in monetary terms and could be in millions for them, but for the people of India, it is a part of our culture and heritage that joins us to our past, that joins us to our values.”
Tourists who travel thousand miles to come to India are not only interested in visiting modern sites but are also interested in rich culture and history that a place offers. The artifacts that speak to these attributes have begun their trip home. US Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch says, “It is my hope – and the hope of the American people – that this repatriation will serve as a sign of our great respects for India’s culture; our deep admiration for its people; and our sincere appreciation for the ties between our nations.”
-by Abigail Andrea, an intern at NewsGram. Twitter: @abby_kono