Indian Government Says Up to 31 Antiquities Stolen in the Last Decade, 27 Objects Still Missing

According to the Indian government, as many as 31 antiquities have been stolen from the country’s centrally protected monuments and sites in the last decade, and only four of them have been recovered.

The statement was made by G Kishan Reddy, the Union Minister for Culture, Tourism and Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) of India in response to a question from Kanimozhi Karunanidhi, a member of parliament from the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party. Karunanidhi asked Reddy about measures the government was taking to prevent the theft of temple idols.

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The missing antiquities are from the Indian states of Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Odisha, and Rajasthan. Reddy said the state of Karnataka lost the most items, 14, and only one had been found.

“The government is committed to bring[ing] back the antiquities of Indian origin which were taken away from India,” Reddy said. “Whenever an antiquity of Indian origin surfaces abroad, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) takes up the matter with Indian Embassies or missions abroad through the Ministry of External Affairs for their retrieval.”

Reddy said that between 1976 and 2023, the ASI has recovered 251 items from foreign countries; nearly 95 percent of those objects were recovered in the last nine years. Reddy said theft prevention methods included regular supervision from ASI staff, private security guards, armed guards from the state police, as well as the deployment of Central Industrial Security Force staff.

“Whenever any theft of antiquity is reported, an FIR [First Information Report] is lodged in the concerned police station and ‘Look Out Notice’ is issued to law enforcement agencies including Custom Exit Channels to keep vigil to trace stolen antiquity and prevent its illegal export,” Reddy said, in reference to reports and circulars issued to prevent those wanted by law enforcement from leaving the country.

In regard to whether any museums or private collections in other countries have agreed to repatriate missing or stolen items, Reddy also stated that “no such agreement has been made for the return of missing or stolen antiques to India with any museum abroad.”

The news was first reported by the Indian Express.


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