Russian envoy appeals on Roerich museum controversy

Monday, 26 March 2012 15:42

Russian Ambassador to India Alexander Kadakin said he felt heartbroken over the controversy sarrounding the Roerich Memorial Museum in the scenic Naggar Valley of Himachal Pradesh.

Mr. Kadakin has already approached the Trust's ex-officio Chairman and Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and plans to seeks Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s intervention against the district administration’s oversight of the Museum and ``removal’’ of long-time curator-cum-executive Museum director Alena Adamkova.

“The Roerich Museum does not belong to the District Collector of Kullu. That is why the level of attention of the Central Government has to be much more active….I feel very heartbroken, it is very painful,” said Mr. Kadakin, a founder member of the trust set up in 1992, of the district administration’s removal notice to Dr. Adamkova and “aggressive” efforts to evict her.

“She is our representative in the museum. Unfortunately for the last six months the situation has been appalling. How can an international trust be under a district authority? Roerich does not belong to at Kullu, India or Russia. It belongs to the entire world. That’s why Russia has insisted the Central Government must take it under its wings. How can a doctorate in science [Dr. Adamkova] wait for three to four months for permission from half literate people to publish books on Roerich? To replace a bath tub, she will have to plead to the District Collector to sign and he says a three member committee is needed to look into the proposal.”

Mr. Kadakin, who came to India as a Foreign Service probationer in 1961, said Mr. Dhumal had replied to his letter suggesting a way out. “That is a good sign. We don’t want war with Himachal Pradesh but we do have issues with the local authorities. The Russian curator, who has done like none on the earth to build the museum, now has to face questions from her son.”  Studying in a local school in Kullu, Dr. Adamkova’s son has been pilloried by his school mates after the conflict between his mother and some trustees broke out. She has faced allegations of corruption that have been front-paged in the regional media. “The other day five people came from the administration threatened her with police action, deportation. Why is it today that instead of thanking her, she is now thrown out as garbage?” Mr. Kadakin wanted to know.

Set up in memory of painter and thinker Nicholas Roerich, Russia and India were keen to refurbish the property which is a must-visit destination to tourists headed for the Kullu-Manali vallies in Himachal Pradesh. Till last year, though allegations of mismanagement against Dr. Adamkova had surfaced, Mr. Kadakin was referring to Mr. Dhumal as “my friend” and hoping work would soon start on modernising the museum containing Roerich’s paintings whose value has gone up in the international art market.

But the dispute was simmering and last year, the state government appealed to the Centre not to renew Dr. Adamkova’s visa. When that attempt failed, she was once summoned by the district officials for “examination” of her visa. She was subsequently removed as curator and, last week a posse from the district administration went to evict her. This has further complicated the situation. While several intellectuals have appealed against the action, the local media has attacked the administration for failing to evict a “foreigner”.

Special Correspondent

The Hindu, Mar 26, 2012

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