A police protected museum robbery?

E-Bangladesh

E-Bangladesh

E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.

… government and French Embassy officials have, without informing either the committee or the media, taken the items out of the museum in what resembled a police protected museum robbery

— Shahidul Alam, Photojournalist, Activist.

  • Account and photos: The price of priceless objects, ShahidulNews.

  • [Photo/Banglar Chokh.]

    [Dhaka Correspondent, E-Bangladesh.]

    Ignoring a writ petition pending, Bangladesh government officials and representatives of the French embassy in Dhaka Friday sent 10 out of 23 boxes of museum pieces to the Guimet Museum in Paris for display. People, holding protests against the move, gathered near the National Museum, attacked the vehicles carrying the artifacts and attacked government officials as they fear the pieces will never be returned. Bangladeshi and French authorities in Dhaka began the process at the National Museum Thursday, a museum holiday, in presence of French embassy and Bangladesh cultural ministry officials.

    “The process for sending the artifacts was not transparent and it created mistrust among the people,” architect Shamsul Wares said. The exact number of the artifacts in the 10 boxes could not be gathered, as Bangladeshi or French officials did not answer any questions regarding the matter. Several museum sources reported that there are about 200 artifacts in the 23 boxes.

    Protesters present in front of the National Museum attacked the cargo trucks headed for the airport with the artifacts. They also assaulted government officials sitting inside the car at around 3 PM. Police picked up an artist in connection with the attack, but he was released at the intervention of journalists present.

    An Air France cargo plane, scheduled to take off at 12.05 AM Saturday, is carrying the artifacts. Homebound trucks and forklifts reached the museum early on the day. The Homebound trucks and forklifts sported banners reading “Save the Children cyclone Sidr emergency relief.”

    National Museum director general, Samar Chandra Pal, and the Department of Archaeology director, Shafiqul Islam, avoided newsmen and crossed into and out of the museum covering the face with their hands.

    Jahangirnagar University archaeology department chairman, Sufi Mostafizur Rahman, also a member on the expert committee the government formed in connection with sending the artifacts to Paris, was present near the museum, and observed that the government could act in keeping the committee findings in the interest of the country. The findings include inaccurate recording of the artifacts, absence of counter-signs of the officials concerned, lack of video documentation, incomplete description, lack of photographs of the items and accession numbers.

    A large number of archaeologists, artists, writers, architects, teachers and students formed a human chain near the National Museum at 10.30 AM protesting the illegal government move. Artist Quayyum Chowdhury led the protest.

    The artifacts were scheduled to be sent to the Guimet Museum on October 13 in an Air France cargo plane. After hearing a petition, the first joint district judge’s court of Dhaka on October 11 issued a notice to the French ambassador and the cultural affairs secretary, asking them to explain why an injunction would not be issued against sending the artifacts abroad. The same court Monday asked the authorities concerned to submit necessary documents in connection with the move on January 15 when the court will hear the case next time.

    The petition was filed by former archaeology department director Nazimuddin Ahmed, former National Museum director general Shamsuzzaman Khan, architect Shamsul Wares, art critic Mainuddin Khaled, and numismatist Nurul Islam.

    Five eminent citizens Thursday demanded that the government should immediately revoke its decision of sending the artifacts to Paris and complete investigation of alleged irregularities. They, in a statement, said the government initiative of sending the priceless artifacts to Paris would make the interim administration controversial. Signatories to the statement: National Professor Kabir Chowdhury, Professor Salahuddin Ahmad, Professor Khan Sarwar Murshid, former Jahangirnagar University vice-chancellor Professor Zillur Rahman Siddiqi and journalist Faiz Ahmed.

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    E-Bangladesh is a News/Headlines service and a group blog aimed at bringing the news and analysis from Bangladesh to its readers.


    14 Responses to “A police protected museum robbery?”

    1. Dr. Muhammad J. A. Shiddiky

      189 rare and invaluable archaeological items of Bangladesh were taken to Guimet Museum, Paris for an exhibition. These were taken out of the National Museum yesterday. Police charged batons and arrested protesters while they were trying to stop transportation of relics from the National Museum. Why the government is engaged in taking out of these precious properties of the country, when a public litigation case in the High Court ordered to stop sending the exhibits for next two months?

      What is going on in Bangladesh? I feared that these precious properties to be sent to the Paris museum might not be returned to Bangladesh. It is highly risky! I think we all should come forward to raise our voice to take proper initiatives and continuous pressure on government to stop the agreement signed between the cultural affairs ministry and representatives of the French government.

    2. Proshnokori

      Please would somebody report facts ? There is no High Court stay order — it was withdrawn many weeks ago by the highest court in the country. Please check with the “experts.” But perhaps the experts are not keen for that information to be widely known?

    3. Iftheker Mohammad

      Whom do you think; have to face trial for that? Well done and keep it up. You have the power, so you must show. Talk against the people. That’s your spirit.

    4. DK

      “189 rare and invaluable archaeological items of Bangladesh were taken to Guimet Museum, Paris for an exhibition.” WTF?

    5. bala

      whoever turms this event robbery is either crazy
      or Gyanpapi.
      I don’t care how famous or so called intelectual he is. This is storm in a tea cup.
      Have all these guys tried to do something positive ever ?
      Rather than doing street protests ?

    6. Jaffer Wasim

      I was at watching the protests outside the National Museum when our precious museum pieces were being taken away forcefully in lorries to France at the bidding of the racket that profit hugely by stealing priceless museum pieces from poor countries. It’s a shame that an unelected government had authorised such an illegal transaction. By doing so these opportunists may land lucrative foreign jobs abroad once their unconstitutional grip over power through the US backed barrel of gun evaporates! I am sure many of these pieces will be replaced by replicas. One day they will reappear in Western auction houses like the ancient Mesopotamian antiquities looted from Baghdad after the US invasion of Iraq.

      Does anyone know how the The 5,000-year-old Guennol Lioness ended up in the hands of auctioneers in the West? I am sure it was smuggled out of Iraq by diplomats, NGO or UN staff. This is a common practice in poor countries. In Bangladesh a former DG of the National Museum had been behind smuggling of age old craft from Bangladesh. In Europe and America you will see a lot of Bangladeshi stone age sculpture decorating posh residences of USAID, ICDDRB, US embassy and European embassy staff. I myself have seen such statues stolen from Bangladesh in California and Maryland.

    7. Akash

      Please, Dr. Siddiky and friends, exhibitions like these are happening in major art museums all over the world. In many cases, the exhibitions become occasions for cultural representations for cultures that are little represented to a world forum, such as Bangladesh. In many cases, such events led to serious scholars and writers from various parts of the world embarking on new projects of research, inquiry and publication. Museum loan through national agreement is one thing, smuggling of artifacts by expats with the connivance of local experts is another thing. For once I do not support this this hue and cry by “intellectuals” and “journalists” who have just proven their provincial, insular mentality (I am reminded of “koour bang,” the toad in the well), and who have produced little or nothing in terms of international scholarship. Writing a newspaper article does not make an intellectual, putting up a soppy online report does not make a journalist.

    8. Hassan

      Brother Akash: I would like to point out some disturbing facts here.

      1. A case was filed against exporting those artifacts abroad and at that time the court did not give any verdict.

      2. Now court bans all export of such artifacts.

      3. Why did the CTG hurry up? What was their interest? Why did not they wait for the court verdict?

      4. What is the guaranty that they will give all those artifacts back, as I learned from newspapers that the export list differs significantly.

      5. How can I believe that they would not send back duplicates and keep the originals?

      6. The Britons came in this subcontinent for pure business and nothing else. And then they left after 190 years of ruling this subcontinent and did nothing except making some stupid backbone-less keranis like us. When they left they took Kohinoor as a gesture of good moral character which now symbolizes the power of British empire.

      7. You will find a lot of national treasures are now resting in British museums or Louvre Museum. All are stolen from poor countries or taken from colonies.

      8. Do you know brother, how much blood they spilled out to take those artifacts? Read that history.

      9. If we loose our heritage we will loose everything. We have to fight against these criminals. They are no good for mankind.

    9. Akash

      Brother Hassan:

      Now did colonial looting stop us from doing trade with England or France? Your and others’ arguments are so mixed up with emotional and petis-nationalist logic that you don’t know what is really good for you. Sure, why don’t you keep your “heritage” locked up in a storeroom while all heritage-bhaiyas go happily about heritaging for the next action? I have no problem with that. Matter ends.

    10. Fareen Zaman

      The constitution of sovereign Bangladesh clearly states that national antiquities can never be taken out of the country. It amounts to gross violation of our constitutional rights. It has already been violated. The current government including all its functionaries can and will easily be indicted on two accounts:

      1. Violation of constitution.

      2. An act carried out by an unelected government whose only task was to hold an election in 90 days which they have also violated.

      Therefore, all their actions so far will be seriously challenged in the court of law in future once this government is shown the way out by peoples’ rage. They too are not above law.

    11. Jaffy

      Reflection on Thai elections and museum theft fiasco

      Thaksin is extremely popular. Corruption is a myth created by the West to string pull nationalist and populist leaders everywhere. In the past it was bloody military coups that did the job for the US and the West to establish control over oil and gas, minerals and diamonds. Now it’s the myth of corruption propagated by TI on behalf of so called donors and their appointed NGOs in the poor countries.

      Military rule is being imposed on many Asian countries but it will be, if required, be violently overthrown. Asians no longer will tolerate US imposed military juntas in democracy loving nations of South and Southeast Asia. Asians have become conscious of US double standard and duplicity in its foreign policy.

      Because of the military and billions of dollars fed into the secret arm of the dreaded ISI of Pakistan Army Pakistan is now on the brink of collapse and civil war. It was a failed state under Musharraf. Musharraf was brought in and bailed out by Bush. Now with Bush’s time to go Musharraf too has been shown the red card by the US.

      The unconstitutional unelected self-imposed military backed government in Bangladesh also enjoys full British and American backing. People are heard joking on the streets saying the US ambassador should be made the PM and the Bengali British ambassador be made the president of the country for their interference in Bangladesh internal matters. Whereas it’s only job was to hold elections in 90 days it is now in power for one year and is satisfying the whims of it’s Western backers.

      It even went to the extent of letting Bangladesh’s rare museum pieces flown out of Bangladesh secretly in Air France 747s from Dhaka airport despite nationwide mass protests. The government used emergency powers to overrule court order not to send the items. It is alleged that an international mafia circle having powerful connections is behind the smuggling of items from poor countries. What is returned are actually replicas which the French part of the racket specialises in. Many of these artefacts will show up in open and secret auction houses in the West, especially London and New York.

      America’s adventurism in Iraq in the long run may turn out to be much costlier and damaging than the Soviet expedition in Afghanistan. The US is basically caught in a quagmire. Russia is no longer under a lame duck drunkard like Yeltsin. It is US military involvement that is fuelling military takeovers in Asia which is surely going to fail miserably. There will be a strong revival of democracy with strong hatred for military rule in countries that have become accustomed to democracy. It’s a pity that the US has now become the source of all evil fascist military rule in the region.

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