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Friday, Aug 16, 2019

US, UK return rare stolen items to India on I-Day

The two items are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in New York, officials said.

world Updated: Aug 16, 2019 01:29 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times, London
Indian high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam with US and UK officials who handed over two rare artefacts stolen from India.
Indian high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam with US and UK officials who handed over two rare artefacts stolen from India.
         

Two items with origins in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu stolen from India were on Thursday handed over to the Indian high commissioner Ruchi Ghanshyam on the occasion of Independence Day following a joint investigation by American and British agencies.

The two items – a limestone carved relief dating 1st century BC and 1st century AD, and a 17th century bronze figure of Navneetha Krishna – are linked to one of the most prolific art smugglers in the world, who was recently charged in New York, officials said. They were recovered with help of officials of the Scotland Yard.

Ghanshyam thanked officers of the Homeland Security Investigation (HIS) team and the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for recovering and returning the antiquities. She hoped that over 2000 such items would be returned to India when proceedings against those involved conclude.

“The cultural significance of artefacts looted from regions around the world extends beyond a monetary value. The pieces, like those recovered through this operation, are stolen fragments of history and it is an honour to return them to their rightful home country”, said Peter C Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI in New York.

Indian flag hoisted at Bedford Council’s town hall following an Independence Day ceremony.
Indian flag hoisted at Bedford Council’s town hall following an Independence Day ceremony. ( HT photo )

The handover event was part of Independence Day celebrations in India House in London attended by several visitors from India who travelled by cars as part of a peace rally. The visitors included Pune-resident Nitin Sonawane, who has been on a walking tour across the globe since November 2016.

Sonawane, 28, has traversed across over 30 countries in south-east Asia, Africa and the US, spreading the message of Mahatma Gandhi’s ideals for a non-violent world in local universities, schools, media and impromptu roadside gatherings.

Nitin Sonawane, who has walked across over 30 countries spreading Gandhi’s message, in India House, London.
Nitin Sonawane, who has walked across over 30 countries spreading Gandhi’s message, in India House, London. ( HT photo )

“In some stretches, Buddhist monks and others joined me for days and months. I am an engineer but have given up much to spread Gandhi’s message that is so needed in today’s world. I have been working in the social sector with the Maharashtra Gandhi Smarak Nidhi”, he said.

The event in India House was preceded by a significant event in Bedford, 100 km north of London, where the India flag was hoisted in the Town Hall, home of the local council, where the flag will fly for 24 hours, much to the delight of the local Indian communities. The event was opened by mayor Dave Hodgson and attended a large number of people, including leaders from local gurdwaras and other community centres.

First Published: Aug 15, 2019 20:40 IST

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