State to get back 10th century Durga idol

Srinagar: The state authorities are in the process of getting back the 10th century Durga idol which was stolen from a temple in south Kashmir in the early 1990s and recently handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Ishfaq Tantry

Tribune News Service

Srinagar, March 9

The state authorities are in the process of getting back the 10th century Durga idol which was stolen from a  temple in south Kashmir in the early 1990s and recently handed over to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

After its theft from a temple in Tengpra village in Pulwama district in 1991, the idol of ‘Mahishasuramardini’ avatar was located in the Linden State Museum for Ethnology in Germany by the Indian authorities following a tip-off from Rahul, an Indian-origin art lover.

Soon after it went missing from the temple, an FIR was registered at the police station concerned in Pulwama and investigation started.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court is hearing a public interest litigation by the Valley Citizens Council, an NGO, seeking restoration of museums and recovery of items stolen from across the state. “We have already taken up the matter with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and requested it to hand over the Durga idol as it is the property of the state,” said Mohammad Shafi Zahid, Director,   Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Jammu and Kashmir.

The  stolen idol was handed over by German Chancellor Angela Merkel to Prime Minister Narendra Modi  in New Delhi on October 5, 2015, after their talks in New Delhi, almost three years after it was spotted in the museum at Stuttgart in Germany.

Sources said the idol was with the ASI at present  and the Directorate of Archives, Archaeology and Museums, Jammu and Kashmir, had already taken up with the ASI the issue of returning the idol. The sources disclosed that state officials escorted by the police were likely to visit New Delhi this month to formally take possession of the idol. “Before the handover, the artifact needs to be insured and certain paperwork completed,” said an official privy to the matter.

Though this Durga idol had been located and brought back to India, the German museum had ‘not made public the provenance and supporting papers of the stolen idol’, the sources disclosed.

The ASI had not published any supporting papers to prove that  the idol  located in Linden museum had actually been moved out of India illegally. There was a long list of precious and rare antiques, artifacts and manuscripts which had been  stolen 

from various museums in the state and were still untraceable, Zahid stated.

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