Rajya Sabha

March 17, 2020

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray asks a Question on the recovery of artefacts and idolsstolen from various temples

Sukhendu Sekhar Ray asks a Question on the recovery of artefacts and idolsstolen from various temples


Will the Minister of CULTURE be pleased to state:

(a) the number of idols and other artefacts which have so far reportedly been stolen from various temples, museums, ancient monuments, archaeological sites and remains in India and found to be smuggled out to foreign countries like USA, UK, Switzerland, Australia,etc., the details thereof;

(b) the action taken by Government so far for return of such cultural properties which have been stolen from and smuggled out of India, the details thereof; and 

(c) the number of such idols and artefacts which have so far been recovered and brought back to India, the details thereof?


I would like to congratulate the government for bringing back 35 numbers of articles or idols from foreign countries . But that is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Sir, my question is the artefacts or idols, which have been returned to India, have they been handed over to the original owners, or (are they) lying in the warehouses? 


Before I go to the second supplementary question, I would like to bring the attention of the Chair to the fact that (there are) so many contradictions. Reply has not been given by the Minister properly to my questions. 

For example, the hon’ble minister stated in the reply to my question that no information regarding idols or other artefacts smuggled out to foreign countries like the UK, USA, Switzerland and Australia is received. On the one hand, the minister says from certain countries no information is there, whether the idols have been smuggled out to those countries. But from the reply from Annexure II it appears the name of those countries which I have named. So, kindly take note of this for appropriate action. This is my humble submission to the Chair. 

My supplementary question is whether the minister is aware of the development as to regarding the theft of antiquities you have given a list? There is no mention of Tamil Nadu in the list. Whether any artefact or Indian idol was smuggled out of Tamil Nadu?

Sir, one Indian whistleblower, and he is an author of an authentic book, has listed and in Madras High Court, in an affidavit, the government said that more than 1000 artefacts were smuggled out from TamilNadu alone. 

And there is no reference (of Tamil Nadu) in the reply of the minister. No reference of Tamil Nadu. So what is the position? Kindly enlighten this House. 1,204 sculptures belonging to 387 temples from Tamil Nadu have been stolen since 1992. Aur woh 72 ki baat kar rahe hain?