India wants Kohinoor, other artifacts, back from UK

ASI says UNESCO support required for international campaign


2nd June 2010: India wants the UK to return Kohinoor, other artifacts. The Archaeological Survey of India has, in fact, joined an international network for the return of priceless artifacts, including the Kohinoor diamond and the Sultanganj Buddha. These were taken away during British rule.

Claiming the list of India’s treasures held abroad was "too long to handle", ASI director-general Gautam Sengupta said the need of the hour was a "diplomatic and legal campaign" for their return from institutions, such as the British Museum, the Royal Collection and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

Speaking to The Independent, Sengupta said after decades of unsuccessful unilateral lobbying, India was looking to join a campaign with the support of UNESCO, and other countries with longstanding complaints about the foreign ownership of their artistic riches, including Egypt and Greece.

He said UNESCO support was required for launching an international campaign to achieve this end, as efforts so far to reclaim stolen treasures had proved futile
Sengupta said other countries such as Mexico, Peru, China, Bolivia, Cyprus and Guatemala had also the voiced the same concern to get back their stolen and looted antiquities and to join the international campaign.

He said a list of unique items that should be returned to their home countries was being drawn up by each of the participating countries.

Rita McLean, head of the Birmingham Museum, said they had so far not received any official request for the return of the Sultanganj Buddha. Any requests for restitution would be treated on a case-by-case basis. The British Museum said it was satisfied the objects highlighted by the Indian authorities had been acquired legitimately.

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