The award winning short film, Blood Buddhas was screened at the 2nd edition of Mangaluru Lit Fest.
The story is of reparation of ancient Indian antiquities from across the world. For centuries India has lost it’s antiquities to vandalism, colonialism and to terror financing. It was only in 2014 onwards the antiquities have started coming back. The film Blood Buddha has been shot in 5 countries and engages with parliamentarians, bureaucrats, activists and law enforcement of these countries.
The official website if the short film states,
India is one of the oldest civilisation and its’ antiquities are the prized possessions of Museums across the Globe. In fact, there are more Indian antiquities in foreign Museums than there are in India.
For the longest time the world brushed aside this inconsistency and marvelled at Colonial Heritage items littered across Foreign Museums.
The World woke up from only when ISIS was caught smuggling Syrian Antiquities to fund its war. UNSC passed a resolution and many countries followed suit.
The 1st big success came in the form of US Homeland Security raid at a Manhattan warehouse of Indian Art Dealer Subhash Kapoor. 105 stolen Indian antiquities worth USD 100 Million were recovered. The news items raised questions on many Museums who had been conned into buying items from Mr. Kapoor.
Two such Museums were in Australia and the government decided to return the stolen Indian faith objects back to India in 2014. That historic decision has set a precedent for other governments to do the right thing. US has offered to return 235 Indian antiquities, Germany, Canada has followed in the footsteps and the story continues.
This is a victory moment in the quest for restoring antiquities in their original countries and France is leading the way by returning ‘Colonial Antiquities’ to Africa. The pressure is mounting on other colonial powers to finally repatriate looted antiquities to former colonies and there is a lot of forward movement on it.
The film follows the activist AnuraagSaxena who runs a crowd source volunteer organisation India Pride Project to bring our Gods home. This is a unique story where expat Indians are leading the way in informing the governments of suspect antiquities and going the distance to enable the Indian government to pursue these cases.
The film begins with the agony of a village temple priest who has lost his murtis to theft and ends with the amazing experience of gods coming back home.
With a mission of bringing back India’s stolen heritage to where it rightfully belongs, Anuraag, along with some friends in Singapore, started India Pride Project a few years back. With zero budget, using Facebook and Twitter, he reached out to people around the world to help him get to his target and didn’t shy away from wearing an investigator’s cap when needed.
Nikhil Singh Rajput’s documentary is thus the latest way to raise awareness and social consciousness for the issue, tasks which the film performs exceptionally well. It also highlighted that the thefts encompassed both the colonial and contemporary era, with idols and relics being stolen from British rule to this day.
“One of the biggest problems with this particular issue is the lack of awareness,” said noted author Amish Tripathi. “The fact is that the problem of stolen artefacts is not taken very seriously; even the scale of it was frankly not even known. Even those of us who are very proud Indians, who are deeply involved in our culture were unaware of the scale of what’s going on.”
Cultural artifacts from across the world are being peddled so bombs can be thrown back at us.
How much does a terrorist attack cost? Where does the money come from? How does the money get through to terror groups? How are far-off countries like India an integral part of the terror-funding network?
Anurag Saxenawho is featured in this documentary answers these questions and writes,
While Indian journalists like Shekhar Gupta were busy justifying and communalizing the issue, the Antiquities Coalition published some shocking data on terror funding and its linkage to heritage theft. Media’s penchant for fake news and malleable narratives ensured that this critical topic got no coverage whatsoever.
It is surprisingly cheap to orchestrate a terror attack, even one large enough to shake the world. The 2015 attacks in Paris, for example, cost only $88,160. Interestingly, only $22,570 was spent in truly criminal activities (like making false IDs and acquiring weapons). The rest of it went toward phone calls, car rentals, travel — the seemingly harmless simple stuff. In other words, the Islamic State (IS) took 130 lives for the price of a mid-range car.
Where does the money come from?
Here is an interesting detail,
Terror-funding sources like oil, money laundering and narcotics have dominated the public perception and media narrative for decades.
What doesn’t fit into that image, however, is the bad guy selling stolen rag-tag antiquities to fund terror.
The United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2199 saying exactly that. That IS was stealing and smuggling heritage artifacts to fund its terror operations. The United States quickly followed suit passing H.R.2285: Prevent Trafficking in Cultural Property Act, recognizing “trafficking of cultural property” as a “homeland security” issue — not an art or heritage concern limited to cocktail evenings at museums and high-society dinners.
In short, heritage from across the world is being peddled so that we can be made victims of terrorism.
How India is related?
Between 2011 and 2016, the declared imports of antiquities into the US grew by almost 50%. That sure is a phenomenal growth rate. More so for a product or market that is not new or fancy. Of the $147 million-worth of arts/antiquities traded in 2016, $79 million came from India. Comparing that to Iraq at only $2.5 million. In short, more than half of America’s arts/antiquities imports had their origins in India.
When we view this in the context of India’s CAG report (the country’s official review and audit agency), commenting on ASI (India’s official agency responsible for preventing heritage-crimes), they chose to not mince words and describe the agency’s efforts as “completely ineffective.”
To add to this, a recent High Court ruling in India had “not come across even a single case, where the persons involved in smuggling the idols out of the country have been independently prosecuted.”
The team at India Pride Project posts regular updates on heritage thefts. Interestingly, most of those thefts are not even officially reported by the local police. No wonder multinational-terror groups chose India for its ripe, repercussion-free pickings.
Where are we going wrong?
The collective consciousness has gotten two facts drastically wrong.
First, it is quite inexpensive to fund a terror attack.
Second, it is also very lucrative to trade in stolen heritage.
Once we put these two together, we have a potent, dangerous, flammable mix ready to explode in our face.
For example, with the gains from selling one Buddha sculpture (stolen from Mathura, India and illicitly sold for $1 million), terrorists could literally fund a dozen Paris-style attacks. To put that in an extrapolated perspective, that’s 1,500 lives that could be lost by smuggling out one piece of Indian heritage. Let that sink in for a minute.
So paradoxically, though Lord Buddha spent every waking minute spreading the world of peace and coexistence, terrorists today are using his very image to fund quite the opposite.
Heritage destruction has been an integral part of civilizational conquests. Nazis destroyed Jewish art and we all know what happened with the BamiyanBuddhas. What is new, though, is where new-age terrorists are taking this deplorable act.
National security agencies are still chasing narcotics and counterfeit currency operations, conveniently barking up the wrong tree, just because it fits into a traditional, comfortable construct.
Source: the documentary Blood Buddhas
Dr. Sindhu Prashanth