Idol smuggling in India
Given India’s long history and it’s rich social culture, there is no wonder that several pieces of priceless art have been created in the past. However, while these sources of art and culture, which should be a source of immense pride for all Indians to be safely located in centers of culture for all to see, are unfortunately being stolen. It is estimated that over 1,000 pieces of ancient artworks are stolen every year from Indian temples and shipped abroad to be sold in the international market.
How does smuggling work?
Industrial Auction Houses look for rare pieces of Indian artwork and idols which can be acquired, either legally or illegally. On finding out the idol and its prospective buyer, the artwork/idol is stolen and shipped abroad (mostly under false decoration).
Where India lags?
There is no central archive of artwork in India. This creates a problem with cataloging stolen artwork. India also has very lax laws which do not deter smugglers. By comparison, Italy with its tough laws has recovered 378,00 pieces of artwork since 1978 while India has acquired only 27 in the same period.
The global attitude towards artwork smuggling must also change and the onus to prove that acquisition is a legal buy must be put on the buyers. This will deter the buyers of smuggled artwork/idols.