Just at a time when India and Russia are joining hands to put the multi-crore International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) in order, the museum in Naggar showcasing the works of celebrated Russian painter Nicholas Roerich has run into another controversy. A day ahead of the visit of a six-member team from the Moscow-based International Centre of the Roerichs to Naggar on Saturday, the Kullu police served a notice to the Czech curator of the IRMT, Alena Adamkova, for violating visa norms.
The police action comes six months after the Himachal Pradesh government refuse to renew Adamkova's contract in the wake of its row with the Russian embassy. Adamkova was the executive director-cum-curator of the IRMT since 2001.
"She had come to India on a work visa, which expired last year, but she continued to stay here," Kullu SP Ashok Kumar told HT. Kumar, who is also the foreign registration officer, said the police had asked Adamkova to explain the violation.
The police notice coincides with the visit of a team from the Moscow-based International Centre of the Roerichs, which is scheduled to reach Kullu on Saturday. They are accompanied by two Russian embassy officials.
The team, comprising experts from various fields, will suggest ways to streamline the functioning of the Russia-backed IRMT. It will also catalogue the artworks of Roerich and his son. The value of the 52 paintings displayed in the Naggar museum is said to be more than Rs 100 crore.
The row over the IRMT started after former bureaucrat Shakti Singh Chandel, a lifetime member of the trust, accused Adamkova of mismanagement and financial bungling, prompting the state government to order an inquiry. The Russian embassy backed Adamkova.
Chandel claimed that neither the government nor the curator had bothered to prepare an inventory of the belongings and artworks of the Roerichs. The row over the functioning of the trust deepened after the government sought to remove Russian ambassador Alexander Kadakin as member of the trust in light of a Karnataka court's ruling on the functioning of Roerich's property at Tataguni near Bangalore.
The state chief secretary wrote to the external affairs ministry, apprising it of the court order and asking it to remove all Russian members of the trust. After a hard-hitting letter from the Russian side, the government lodged a formal protest with the Russian embassy. The foreign affairs ministry then suggested two curators for the museum, one of them Indian and the other Russian. But the name suggested by Russia's department of culture to replace Adamkova did not find favour with Chandel. Subsequently, the state government questioned Russia's choice and insisted on appointing a person with more technical know-how.