New Delhi: Amid demands from several
quarters to stop the auction of paintings of Nobel laureate
Rabindranath Tagore in London, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh
on Thursday assured that the issue will be examined but said the
government has no legal rights over the rare works.
Singh, who chaired the first meeting of National
Committee for Commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of
Tagore, said the government will surely examine into the issue
of bringing back the rare paintings.
According to sources, Singh at the same time said the
government didn`t have legal rights over the paintings.
They said the Prime Minister recalled the hurdles the
government faced while stopping the auction of Mahatma
Gandhi`s personal belongings, including his iconic round
glasses, in New York last year.
Twelve paintings of Tagore, including a portrait of a
woman with a fan, will go the hammer at Sotheby`s on June 15.
The paintings belong to the Dartington Hall estate in
London`s South Devon and have a combined pre-sale estimate of
250,000 pounds. Tagore visited Dartington a number of times.
Apart from the paintings, it holds a huge archive of
photographs, letters and other ephemera relating to Tagore.
Sources said the issue was raised by CPI-M Politburo
member and Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury at the meeting,
which was attended by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, Finance
Minister Pranab Mukherjee, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal and
Singh`s comments come a day after West Bengal Chief
Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee wrote to him requesting him
to take measures to bring to India the 12 paintings.
Several organisations in Bengal and cultural centres
across the country have also appealed to the government to
take steps to bring the paintings back.
Despite the Delhi High Court ordering a stay on the
auction and a massive diplomatic effort, Gandhi`s five
personal belongings went under the hammer at Antiquorum
Auctioneers in March last year.
The articles were finally bought by business tycoon
Earlier, a Culture Ministry official told agency that the
matter has been brought to the government`s notice.
"We are aware that some paintings of Tagore are going
to be auctioned in London next month. The matter is under
consideration," the official said.
Asked whether the government was contemplating any
step to stop the auction and bring back the paintings, the
official said they have come to know about the auction only
yesterday and a decision on this will be taken soon.
The auction also comes at a time when the government
is planning to commemorate the 150th birth anniversary of
Tagore in a big way. The prime minister has appointed two
committees to consider policies and lay down guidelines for
the celebrations. Singh himself heads one committee.