IAS Gyan

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Context: The Union Minister of State for Science and Technology announced that 231 stolen antiques have been repatriated to India in the last nine years. The minister also stressed the government's commitment to preserving India's heritage by establishing Science Museums across the country.


Repatriated Antiques

  • The repatriated antiques include coins, sculptures, paintings, manuscripts and other works of art and craftsmanship that date back to different periods of Indian history.
  • Some of them have deep religious and spiritual significance, such as the Lingodhbhavamurti statue of Lord Shiva that was stolen from Tamil Nadu and displayed at the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama.

Antiquities and Art Treasures Act 1972

  • The Antiquities and Art Treasures Act of 1972, defines “antiquity” 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; any article, object or thing declared by the Central Government by notification in the Official Gazette to be an antiquity for this Act”.
  • The Act also stipulates that any antiquity that is more than 100 years old cannot be exported out of India without permission.


  • Despite the legal framework, many Indian antiquities have been smuggled out of the country over the centuries by unscrupulous dealers and collectors. Some of them have ended up in museums and private collections abroad.
  • The repatriation process involves several challenges such as establishing the provenance and ownership of the antiques, negotiating with foreign authorities and institutions, complying with the legal procedures and ensuring the safe transportation and preservation of the antiques.

Steps Taken by Government

  • The Indian government has been actively pursuing the retrieval of its cultural heritage from various countries.
  • The Prime Minister has personally discussed the matter with global leaders and multilateral institutions on numerous foreign visits.
  • The government has been working with various agencies such as the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), the Interpol and the foreign ministries to trace and recover these priceless artefacts.
  • The government has also been raising awareness among the public and stakeholders about the importance of protecting and preserving India's cultural heritage.
  • The International Museum Expo 2023, inaugurated by the Prime Minister at Pragati Maidan, is another initiative to showcase India's cultural and spiritual heritage to the world.
    • The expo features exhibits from various museums across India and abroad, as well as interactive sessions and workshops on museum management, conservation and digitisation.


  • The repatriation of 231 stolen antiques in the last nine years is a testimony to the government's commitment and efforts to restore India's pride and glory. India has a glorious legacy of art and culture that spans over millennia. The repatriation of stolen antiques is a step towards reclaiming and celebrating that legacy for the present and future generations.