“Dancing Shiva” from National Gallery of Australia belongs in India!

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Recent reports in Australia uncover the murky saga behind 900 years old Dancing Shiva’s Bronze idol, purchased by National Gallery of Australia (NGA) in 2008. NGA paid $5.6 millon to disgraced arts dealer, Subhash Kapoor for this idol.

Mr Kapoor is in prison in Tamil Nadu, awaiting trial for the alleged stealing of this idol and many others. It is alleged that Dancing Shiva was stolen from a temple in Sripuranthan, Tamil Nadu, India. Kapoor’s manager, Aaron Freedman, has pleaded guilty in a New York court and divulged the murky details.

NGA claims to have done proper provenance checks, before buying the idol, but serious questions have now been raised about these checks by some including Senator George Brandis, Attorney General of Australia and Minister for Arts recently, when he spoke to ABC Four Corners.

High Commission of India in Canberra has lodged a request with Govt of Australia to get Dancing Shiva idol returned to India. It is likely that this will happen, following United Nations convention of 1970 on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property, India’s Antiquity and Art Treasures Act 1972 and the Australian Protection of Movable Cultural Heritage Act (PMCH) 1986.

Australian Govt appears to be positively inclined to consider this request from India.

Similar to this, India, in my view, should ask for return of any other item of cultural heritage from Australia or any other country, stolen and exported from India, back to India.

India should pursue anyone everywhere if they are involved in committing such activities.

Dr Yadu Singh/Sydney/6th May, 2014

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