Govt has no legal right to stop auction of Tagore paintings: PM

Govt has no legal right to stop auction of Tagore paintings: PM

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the first meeting of National Committee for Commemoration of 150th Birth Anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore, in New Delhi on Thursday. PTI

Singh made his government’s position known at the first meeting of the National Committee for Commemoration of the 150th Birth Anniversary of Tagore in response to countrywide demands, including from West Bengal Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, that the auction be stopped and the 12 paintings brought back to India.

To explain its position, he referred to the problems the government faced while stopping last year’s New York auction of Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings, including a pair of his spectacles, the sources said. Those items were finally bought by liquor baron Vijay Mallya.

Singh’s comments came when CPM leader Sitaram Yechuri, who is also a member of the committee, raised the issue in the presence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The paintings, with a combined pre-sale estimate of £250,000, being auctioned are the property of the Dartington Hall estate in London’s South Devon. Dartington Hall, which was visited by Tagore several times, has a large collection of paintings, photographs, letters and other items connected to the Nobel Laureate.

The prime minister also spelt out the plans for the anniversary celebrations during the meeting. He said one major part of it would be a focus on bringing out many lesser-known aspects of Tagore’s multifaceted genius.

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