The ‘Bring our gods home’ crusade taken up to track stolen artefacts has already catapulted S. Vijay Kumar, a cost accountant, into the international spotlight.
His venture, India Pride Project, floated a decade ago through a group of motivated stakeholders comprising people from across the globe, has reportedly helped track and retrieve many stolen antiquities which include centuries-old bronze Nataraja, Ganesha and Parvathy idols stolen from the country and smuggled to Australia, USA and Singapore, among others. Mr. Vijayakumar, who is from Tamil Nadu and heads South East operations of a shipping company at Singapore, spoke to The Hindu about the new mission, which is to bring back the nearly 3,000 artefacts that have been stolen from the country, the location of which now been tracked to various museums/collectors’ possession.
“Main problem in India is there used to be a huge gap in time between theft of valuables and commencement of full-fledged investigation. That hampers the recovery. But countries like Cambodia are able to recover almost every stolen antique item within few weeks due to swift investigation”.
Explaining the tracking methodology followed by India Pride Project, he said that as soon as information was obtained on an artefact coming up for an auction anywhere in the world or come to know of being stored in any museum, we compare the details with the database created by us on stolen antiquities.
“If it was the smuggled item from India, we go back in a reverse way to find out its origin after identifying from where the shipping was made to the located place of storage”.
According to him, the administrators here need to be more vigilant and should keep all priceless historic items photographed so that recovery process becomes easier if stolen. “Even Comptroller and Auditor General's report in 2013 has slammed Archaeological Survey of India because since Independence, only 18 stolen idols/statues/arts have been retrieved back to the country till 2012. This is against almost 15,000 antiquities/temple arts that are getting stolen in every decade”.
He reiterated the need for constituting ‘national art recovery squad’.