Meenakshi Lekhi, Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture, urged nations to voluntarily return stolen cultural assets to their legitimate owners at the G20 summit held in Madhya Pradesh. Giving back stolen artefacts is both morally required and a move towards redressing the historical injustices that have befallen many countries.
“If something has been taken away out of the country, 50 years ago or a century ago, when we were dehumanised, derecognised, and if those pieces are lying in the basements of certain museums where those have not even been displayed to the public, they should be voluntarily returned to the countries they belong to,” she said.
With many nations requesting the return of their stolen artefacts, the problem of cultural heritage repatriation has taken on greater importance in recent years. Many of these cultural treasures were stolen or removed during colonial control or other times of conflict, and the question of who should be entitled to them still raises controversy.
In her speech, Lekhi stressed the importance of cultural heritage as a means of fostering intercultural communication and understanding as well as a source of national pride. She went on to say that returning stolen artefacts would also aid in protecting the nations’ traditional heritages from which they were taken.
Lekhi applauded nations like France and Germany for their efforts in reuniting looted artefacts with their legitimate owners. She urged other countries to emulate their example and take effective measures to get back stolen cultural treasures.
In the past, the G20 meetings have included discussions on the problem of repatriating cultural heritage. 2018 saw the release of a statement from the G20 Cultural Ministers’ Meeting in Buenos Aires that emphasised the value of safeguarding cultural heritage and encouraging its return to its nation of origin.
The G20 is a forum of the 20 biggest countries in the world, accounting for about 80% of global GDP (GDP). Members of the group have the chance to discuss a variety of global economic and political problems at group meetings.
Lekhi’s call for the voluntary return of stolen cultural property serves as a final reminder that cultural repatriation is still a pressing issue for many countries. Returning stolen artefacts can be a significant move towards mending the wounds of the past and creating a more equitable future as the world struggles with issues of historical injustice and cultural identity.