New Delhi: The Australian government has decided to return three centuries-old Indian artefacts during Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s visit to India in January next year.
The artefacts are a pair of 15th-century ‘door guardians (dvarapala)’ from Tamil Nadu and a ‘serpent king (Nagaraja)’ dating between the 6th and 8th centuries.
These were bought by the Australian government from former New York art dealer Subhash Kapoor, who is facing criminal proceedings in both India and the United States for the alleged smuggling and illegal possession of artefacts worth millions of dollars.
PM Morrison, Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Minister of Arts Paul Fletcher issued a joint statement Wednesday, announcing the return of these culturally relevant artefacts to India.
“Like India, we understand the value of our ancient cultures and artefacts. The return of these artefacts is the right thing to do. This is another demonstration of the deep relationship between Australia and India,” the press release quoted Morrison as saying.
‘Bought in good faith, but returning artefacts voluntarily’
The joint statement noted that the artefacts were bought in good faith and were part of the showcase at the National Gallery of Australia (NGA). The government, it added, had decided to voluntarily return them after extensive research.
Disgraced art dealer Kapoor has been in jail since 2011 on charges of smuggling and illegally possessing artefacts worth millions of dollars.
In 2015, the National Gallery of Australia removed artefacts worth $11 million that the government had bought from Kapoor. The artefacts included a collection of 13 sculptures of deities carved from stone, ivory, marble, brass and bronze.