Two heritage items from Chandigarh were sold for Rs 47.51 lakh at an auction held in Paris earlier this week. Heritage Protection Cell member Ajay Jagga, who had written to several platforms, said he got a communication from French officials on his grievance.
While a pair of easy arm chairs in teak and wicker designed by Pierre Jeanneret, that had its reserve price between €10,000-15,000 was sold for €15,600, Jeanneret’s set of six office armchairs (in teak and wicker) that had reserve price between €30,000-45,000 were auctioned for €39,600.
A day bed designed by Jeanneret that had estimated reserve price between €18,000- 25,000, and a pair of advocate arm chairs in teak and hide that had estimates reserve price between €25,000-35,000, remained unsold.
Jagga had written to the Union minister for external affairs, ambassador, Indian Embassy Paris and deputy chief of Mission, Indian Mission Paris.
Jagga said, “The French officials, on his advance intimation of an auction in Paris, assured help and then later said the matter was inquired from the auction house, on our plea that these items cannot be auctioned, as there is a ban from MHA on exports of Chandigarh heritage items since 2011.”
“It was told that the auctioneer says that the goods on auction landed in France, prior to 2011, and thus there is nothing wrong in the auction. I told them that the auction house must present some evidence that the goods landed there before 2011, in order to substantiate his statement. Then it was told that in order to proceed further in this matter, the Chandigarh government can officially convey this matter to the Indian Ambassador in France, who can then officially take it up with the Government of France.”
He added, “I feel these are the correct diplomatic channels, which are necessary for attempting to bring back our heritage from abroad, which has been smuggled out. This is a great beginning and it took almost a decade to reach there.”
Following this, Jagga wrote to UT Administrator V P Singh Badnore and Adviser Manoj Parida to take up the issue with the government.
“I would like to update you that after the London auction, the matter regarding Paris auction was conveyed to French officials also and they helped as well and certain official procedures have been conveyed, which we will follow for lodging the matter of cultural trafficking with the French government,” he said in the letter to both.
He further stated, “The response of the French officials has been very cordial and they have assured further help, for which they have also requested an interaction between your excellency and Indian Ambassador in France.
However, out of four, two items were auctioned for for Rs. 47.51 lakh. We are very hopeful of creating the proper and legal set up for the items which are lying in foreign countries, bring it back.”
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