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USA to return 1,414 ancient Murtis and artifacts, including Met Museum displays which were illegally taken from India, largest restitution so far

The ASI team will also authenticate the objects as "antiquities" or "non-antiquities". ASI officials said the new batch of 1,414 objects is likely to include non-antiquities as well, and will be ranked accordingly, keeping the definition of "antiquity" in mind.

A batch of 1,414 antiquities is set to return to India from the United States. Reports citing government sources claim that the objects have already been given to the Consulate General of India in New York.

The antiquities will include objects displayed in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met Museum). Sources say that as per procedure, a team from the Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is being sent to the US for verification of the objects, after which the repatriation process can be initiated.

The ASI team will also authenticate the objects as “antiquities” or “non-antiquities”. ASI officials said the new batch of 1,414 objects is likely to include non-antiquities as well, and will be ranked accordingly, keeping the definition of “antiquity” in mind.

No specific details regarding their age or region have been provided to the ASI at this stage. However, the US authorities have reportedly said that the 1,414 objects from different sources seem to be of “Indian provenance”.

As per the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act, 1972, antiquity is defined as “any coin, sculpture, painting, epigraph or other work of art or craftsmanship; any article, object or thing detached from a building or cave; any article, object or thing illustrative of science, art, crafts, literature, religion, customs, morals or politics in bygone ages; any article, object or thing of historical interest” that “has been in existence for not less than 100 years”.

Non-antiquities are generally decorative objects and idols, or replicas of original art objects used for ornamental purposes.

A joint investigation by The Indian Express in March revealed that a treasure trove at the Met was traced to antique dealer Subhash Kapoor, who was serving a prison term in Tamil Nadu for smuggling antiquities.

On 22nd March, the Supreme Court of the State of New York had issued a warrant against the Met giving the authorities ten days to seize the antiquities.

On 30th March, the Met had issued a statement saying it would “transfer 15 sculptures for return to the Government of India, after having learned that the works were illegally removed from India”. 10 of the 15 items in the search warrant were flagged in The Indian Express report.

Earlier, in July, the Indian government had said the objects from the Met were expected to arrive in the next three to six months. 105 antiquities were handed over by the US authorities to the Indian Consulate in New York on 17th July, and repatriated to India in August. The Met’s objects were not among them.

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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