June 1, 2010: Britain expects India to shortly ask yet again for the return of its artefacts allegedly looted during the colonial period and now showcased in various British museums.
According to The Independent newspaper, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is compiling a list of the stolen riches before launching a ‘diplomatic and legal campaign’ for their restitution from institutions, including the British Museum, the Royal Collection and the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
Among the items quoted by the newspaper from the list are the 2.3 metre-tall bronze Buddha statue, excavated from Sultanganj in India’s Bihar state and which now resides in Birmingham, and Amravati railings, a series of limestone carvings dating from around 100 AD and acquired from a Buddhist temple in Andhra Pradesh by Victorian explorers.
Also on the list are the Kohinoor diamond that sits at the heart of a crown made for the Queen Mother as the last empress of India.
The world famous Kohinoor diamond has always been on such lists compiled by India and forwarded to Britain for its return.
The Indian initiative follows a conference in Cairo last April where several countries from Asia, Africa and South America called for a concerted effort with the help of Unesco for the return of their national treasures. The call followed realisation by these countries that individual attempts have so far proved unsuccessful.
While some British museums have indicated they were willing to consider the return of smaller artefacts, most museums are against returning any of the major items on grounds they are banned under British laws.
Rita McLean, head of the Birmingham Museum, is quoted as saying: ‘We have not received any official request for the return of the Sultanganj Buddha. Any requests for restitution will be treated on a case-by-case basis.’