Last week, in a bizarre declaration, India’s Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar told a New Delhi court that the fabled diamond was neither “forcibly taken nor stolen” by the British when it ruled over a vast swathe of India.
Kumar said the 105-carat Kohinoor was given as a gift to the British. Scholars and officials have challenged the statement saying it was not a gift and that it was taken away forcibly from a child prince as compensation for the losses apparently suffered by the British during the Anglo-Sikh war of 1849. Furious posts appeared in Indian social media and newspapers.
The Indian Ministry of Culture then issued a statement saying it would “make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor Diamond in an amicable manner.” Indians have been demanding its return soon after independence in 1947.
The Kohinoor (Persian for Mountain of Light) is a large, colourless diamond. It weighed 793 carats (158.6 g) uncut and was first owned by the Kakatiya dynast, after being mined in Guntur in Andhra Pradesh, sometime in the 13th century . The stone changed hands several times between various feuding factions in South Asia over the next few hundred years.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab had willed the diamond to the Hindu temple of Jagannath in Puri, in modern-day Odisha, India. However, after his death in 1839, the East India Company did not execute his will. On 29 March 1849, following the annexation of Punjab to the British Indian empire, all of the Maharaja’s assets, including the Kohinoor, was taken by Queen Victoria..
In 1852, Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, unhappy with its dull and irregular appearance, ordered it cut down from 186 carats (37.2 g). It emerged 42 per cent lighter as a dazzling oval-cut brilliant weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 g) and measuring 3.6 cm x 3.2 cm x 1.3 cm. It later was embedded into the crown of Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth. The British Royal Crown is now part of the Crown Jewels, on display in the Tower of London.
The governments of India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have all claimed ownership of the Kohinoor.
The Indian government has said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had managed to get back several Indian artifacts from foreign countries during the past two years. . It is pertinent to note here that during an official visit in 2010 to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron rejected demands for the return of the jewel. He said: ““If you say yes to one, you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty. I think I am afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it is going to have to stay put.” – CINEWS