India must start working to reverse plunder of our national artistic heritage
February 15, 2016, 10:23 am IST Economic Times in ET Commentary | India | ET
By Sanjeev Sanyal
The organised theft of the country’s artistic heritage is perhaps the biggest scandal of modern India and it goes on virtually unnoticed. It is not merely about the sheer scale of plunder but the erosion of the very soul of our civilisation.
According to experts, around 20,000 idols, sculptures and other antiquities have been stolen and sold in foreign countries since 1980. This excludes colonial-era loot. The estimated market value of these antiquities is over $10 billion, although many of these artefacts are priceless from a cultural perspective. Even iconic national monuments such as the Jain temples of Mt Abu have not been spared, many of the idols there being modern replicas.
The Gods Must Be Crazy
It is important to note that the systematic plunder of national treasures is not due to petty local thieves, but part of a well-oiled international network run by a handful of criminal organisations. They identify specific pieces, buy off officials to smuggle across borders, use well-known auction houses and even have prominent art experts on their payrolls.