Whose ‘Dancing Girl’ is it, anyway?
ISLAMABAD: A 5,000-year-old bronze sculpture excavated from the ruins of Moen Jo Daro has become another bone of contention between bitter rivals Islamabad and New Delhi after Pakistani officials said they would bring the figurine, called Dancing Girl, back from India.
Last week, lawyer Javed Iqbal Jaffrey petitioned the Lahore High Court (LHC) to issue direction to the federal government to claim the 10.5-centimetre-high statue, dating back to around 2500 BC, from India.
“The statue, which was discovered in 1926 from Moen Jo Daro — the ancient city of the Indus Valley Civilisation in Sindh — was taken to India around 60 years ago at the request of the National Arts Council, Delhi, and was never brought back,” Jafri said in his petition.
The petition incensed the Indians who took to popular microblogging site Twitter to vent their anger. They mocked the move and instead offered Pakistan Bollywood movie ‘Mohenjo Daro’.
The Indians believe the statue belongs to them because they got it before the 1947 Partition of the subcontinent. But Pakistani officials argue the artifact was excavated from the ruins of Moen Jo Daro, which lies in Sindh, and hence it must be returned to the place of its origin.
Famous international archaeologists have described Dancing Girl as one of the most captivating pieces of art from the Indus valley ruins. It is also touted as a rare antique in the shared history of the subcontinent. Jafri said Dancing Girl’s significance for Pakistan rivals that of Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa for Europe.
Notwithstanding the knee-jerk reaction of the Indians, Pakistani officials are determined to reclaim what the director general of Pakistan National Council of Arts calls ‘important cultural icon’. “Dancing Girl must be brought back to the place of its origin along with other invaluable artifacts,” Jamal Shah told The Express Tribune.
Shah is in contact with the Lahore Art Museum, from where the tiny statute had been lent to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum for an exhibition. Instead of sending it to Pakistan just before the partition, the sculpture had been sent to India.
“We’re preparing our case. We’re gathering details on when and how it was sent to India,” Shah said. “I’m also in contact with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco). We’ll pursue the case properly after legalities are worked out,” he added. “It is important if we want to protect our heritage.”
Jafri, however, laments that at the official level, the government is not doing anything whatsoever to reclaim the statute. He also blames the Lahore Art Museum staff, calling their inaction ‘criminal neglect’ on their part.
“The government claims that it will overcome the energy crisis by end 2018. Who are they kidding – do they not know history? Not a single artifact has ever been shared with Pakistan by India,” he added. Jafri hopes his petition will be taken up by an “impartial judge having sense of aesthetic appreciation and justice”.