India celebrated its 72nd Independence day yesterday. On the occasion, London's Metropolitan Police returned a 12th century bronze Buddha statue that Britishers had taken from a museum in Nalanda in Bihar some 57 years ago. About 14 statues were looted from the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) site museum in Nalanda in 196.. They were later found getting auctioned in London.
The statue returned by UK is one of those 14 statues. Lynda Albertson of the Association for Research into Crimes Against Art (ARCA) and Vijay Kumar from the India Pride Project had identified the statue at a trade fair earlier this year who then alerted the police.
At the ceremony held on Independence Day at India House in London, Scotland Yard returned the statue to the Indian High Commissioner in UK. Met Police Detective Chief Inspector Sheila Stewart, who was accompanied by officials from the UK's Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport at the handover ceremony, said, "I am delighted to return this piece of history. This is an excellent example of the results that can come with close cooperation between law enforcement, trade and scholars."
She further said, "Although this was stolen over 50 years ago, this did not prevent the piece being recognised and the credit must go to the eagle eye informants who made us aware that the missing piece had been located after so many years."
YK Sinha, Indian High Comissioner in UK said, "I hope it will now go back to where it originally belongs... On our Independence Day, it (return of the statue) highlights the multi-faceted cooperation between our two countries.
Michael Ellis, UK Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism, said, "As we celebrate India's Independence Day, I am proud to highlight the latest example of the UK's cultural diplomacy in action. Thanks to the work of the Metropolitan Police's Arts and Antiques Unit, we are one of the first countries to recover one of the 14 elusive Buddha statues stolen from Nalanda nearly 60 years ago."
Detective Constable Sophie Hayes of the Met's Art and Antique Unit said, "Indeed, from the outset they have cooperated fully with the police to resolve this matter and they have made the decision to return the sculpture via the police. We are delighted to be able to facilitate the return of this important piece of cultural heritage to India."
She further added, "The Art and Antiques Unit was founded 50 years ago and is one of the oldest specialist units in the Metropolitan Police Service. The unit prides itself on a "long history of reuniting owners with their stolen property".