British Police yesterday handed over three sculptures of Lord Rama, Lakshamana and Mata Sita to Indian High Commission in London. The bronze images of Lord Rama, Lakshamana and Mata Sita are 90.5 cm, 78 cm, and 745 cm in height respectively and are the masterpieces of Indian Metal Art. These sculptures were stolen from a temple of Vijaynagar Period, about 40 years back. Stylistically these sculptures are datable to 15th century A.D.
India was able to get back sculptures due to the efforts of special Idol Wing, Govt. of Tamil Nadu, Archaeological Survey of India and High Commission of India. Since 2014, India has been able to get back 40 sculptures and efforts are on to get more in the coming days. According to Union Minister of Culture and Tourism Minister (I/C) Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, Indian government is talking to British Museum to bring Vag Devi idol back to India.
Theft of ancient monuments have become common in India. Though in recent years security around the museums has improved, we have not been able to achieve theft-proof environment.
Once the artefacts/antiquities leave the Indian shore (through illegal means) bringing them back home is an uphill task. Then efforts to retrieve and get them back to the country have to be done within the parameters of the UNESCO Convention of 1970, to which India is signatory. The Archaeological Survey of India has to prove that the object/sculpture in question is covered under the definition of Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972 and exported in violation of this Act. The basic difficulty faced for the retrieval of the object is to prove the ownership/provenance in absence of FIR or theft report lodged against the object. Usually, it is strenuous and time-consuming task with low success rate.