We decided to take a close look at the Antiquities and Art Treasures Act in this issue. One of the reasons being that the Act needs to have a serious relook at this point of time, when with almost every passing day newer samples of anitiques and art treasures from India are making an appearance in the global auction circuit. They are at times being bought by Indians, but because of various complications within the country's Antiquity and Art Treasures Act, not always reaching their country of origin. One feels sad when one learns that Rabindranath Tagore's sketches have been picked up by an NRI who publicly declare that he will have to think if he wants to carry his acquisition back to where it belongs. While on one hand, this is because of the red tapism inherent to the Act, on the other hand it is also due to various indistinctions within the Act itself.
The Indian Antiquities and Art Treasure Act of 1972 is presently under consideration of being amended. This would be a welcome decision as the present act has destroyed the legitimate domestic trade in antiquities thereby making smuggling an attractive option.
The antiquity act, to our understanding, should be abolished and a new act framed on the lines of the Art Treasure Act. Wherein only export is prohibited but not local dealings and no registrations are required. With details required for registration of objects more than 100 years old, 75 years in the case of textiles such as purchases, seller, pricing and photo documentation, it only makes knowledgeable collectors in India stay away from antiquities in right earnest, just to avoid all these procedural delays.
A change would only help in avoiding red tapism and help in creating an awareness of our heritage. Similarly import of Antiquity should also be liberalised. This would open the doors to the country getting back a lot of its treasure.
There is another point of consideration. More than 50% of all our public museums which is the home to the bulk of nation's artistic patrimony are without any reputed scholars to head the various departments. It is seriously hoped that the government frees antiquities and art treasures from the bureaucracy and they become objects to cherish and not to shun.
The amendment would definitely gain and develop greater interest in our heritage.
The June issue of Art news & views is a humble step towards understanding the Act and its pitfalls. We have tried to make it into an issue where you are also helped at appreciating the rich treasures that we already posses. Thus we have covered the Antiquities and Art Treasures, Interviews with Mr. Sircar and Dr. Sengupta There is a special museum section where we have covered the CKP Museum, the Jagadish Mittal Museum, Hazarduari Museum, the Patna Museum and Museums of Madhya Pradesh in order to understand the part they play in restoration and preservation of antiquities in the country.
Meanwhile, Happy Reading