Stolen idols in the U.S. must be brought back: art enthusiasts

Say action is needed from the officials concerned

January 06, 2018 11:38 pm | Updated 11:38 pm IST - CHENNAI

Art enthusiasts analysing the Subhash Kapoor case say that over 30 stunning bronze and stone sculptures are in the U.S. since 2012. Temple authorities, Hindu Religious & Charitable Endowment officials and experts should identify them and bring them back home, they demand.

In 2012, international antique dealer Subash Kapoor was extradited from Germany and arrested by the Crime Branch CID, Idol Wing, for stealing idols from temples of Tamil Nadu and smuggling them to various countries, including his art gallery in the U.S. In April 13, 2015, New York District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance filed charges against Kapoor and his Art of the Past Gallery.

The statement by New York District Attorney disclosed the startling revelations that raids on various storage facilities of the now-defunct gallery conducted from January 2012 yielded 2,622 artefacts valued at $107.6 million or over ₹ 800 crore.

The court document filed by the attorney also had the detailed inventory listing, itemised photographs and minimal values as of 2006 in the books of the dealer. Careful perusal of this list shows that there are 33 artefacts from Tamil Nadu totalling over $35 million or over ₹225 crore.

S. Vijay Kumar, an art enthusiast, said senior officials from the Idol Wing who visited New York in the last week of May 2016 brought back with them just two bronze idols – Chakarathalvar and Uma (combined value of over ₹25 crore). However, no further progress has been made on retrieving the rest of the deities, he said.

“For instance, a Thachur Murugan idol was stolen from a village near Kallakurichi and identified by our crowd-sourcing effort. Sadly, no FIR has been filed so far and no attempts have been made to retrieve the sculpture despite evidence provided wherein the sculpture was published in a local book when still in the village,” said Mr. Kumar.

Similar is the case of the rare dancing Sambandar from Sendamangalam. A team from India Pride, on its documentation visit, had spotted an empty niche and, when queried, the priest said that the kosta sculpture of Brahma was stolen during cyclone Thane. The Idol Wing was informed and an FIR was filed.

A police officer said, “We have brought Chakarathalvar and Boodevi back home. Prime Minister Modi, during his trip to the U.S., brought Vinayagar and Manickavasakar. But other idols were retained by the U.S. authorities for trying the case against Kapoor in the U.S.”

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