Roerich’s legacy again at the centre of controversy

Monday, 23 April 2012 11:54

Upset over Himachal govt’s move to remove its executive director

Noted painter-philosopher Nicholas Roerich’s legacy is again at the centre of a controversy, with Russia urging India to take over his memorial in Himachal Pradesh and block the state authorities’ move to remove its executive director Alena Adamkova from the campus.

The Russian Embassy in New Delhi has requested India to work out an “appropriate mechanism to take the International Roerich Memorial Trust (IRMT) under the Central jurisdiction”.

“Considering the universal value of the Roerichs’ legacy, the Embassy and the Russian government have requested the Indian government to work out an appropriate mechanism to take the IRMT under the Central jurisdiction,” Russian Ambassador to India, Alexander M Kadakin, said on Friday.

Meanwhile, Moscow on Friday also conveyed to New Delhi that ‘harassment’ of Adamkova by the Himachal Pradesh government officials was “objectionable and categorically unacceptable, fraught with undermining Russia’s civilisational values and aimed at provoking a scandal of bilateral and international dimensions.”

Adamkova, a Slovakian, has been the executive director and curator of the IRMT since 2001. Amid a row between the Russian Embassy and the Himachal government, her contract was not renewed after it expired in December 2011.

Roerich, who was also a scientist, author and traveller, had made Naggar his home after concluding his Central Asian expedition in 1928. Before he died in 1947, Roerich not only produced 7,000 paintings of the landscape of the Himalayas, but also collected a large number of priceless items of ethnographical and archaeological importance apart from setting up a research centre called “Urusvati”.

Cine-star Devika Rani, who was married to Roerich’s younger son Svetoslav, set up the IRMT in 1993, with the then Himachal Pradesh chief minister as president and Russian Ambassador to India as vice-president. The trust was entrusted with the task of managing the affairs of the estate in Naggar and preserving the rich legacy of the Roerichs.

The row over the IRMT started after former bureaucrat Shakti Singh Chandel, a lifetime member of the trust, accused Adamkova of mismanagement and financial bungling, prompting the Himachal Pradesh government to order an inquiry. The Russian Embassy backed Adamkova, who denied all allegations.

“The Deputy Commissioner (of Kullu),  being the treasurer of the IRMT,  solely manages all funds of the trust and only he can sign the cheques.

“The executive director has to claim reimbursement against bills after incurring expenses. So how can I be accused of financial irregularities,” Adamkova told Deccan Herald. The Russian Embassy in New Delhi, too, dismissed the allegations against Adamkova as a slanderous campaign to discredit the eminent Indologist, who it claimed made immense contribution to develop the IRMT over the past 10 years in accordance with the vision of Svetoslav Roerich and Devika Rani.

Roerichs’ Tataguni Estate in Bangalore was also caught in a protracted legal battle for almost 17 years, before the Supreme Court in August 2011 upheld the Karnataka government’s decision to take it over. 

Anirban Bhaumik, New Delhi, April 21, 2012, DHNS:

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