At last they have admitted that there is no truth in the accusation that the British stole the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the biggest and most impressive jewel in the Queen's Crown.
Britain 'did not steal most famous diamond in Crown Jewels from India'Andrew Marszal, new delhi 18 APRIL 2016 • 4:43PM
Britain did not steal the most famous diamond in the Crown Jewels from India and should be allowed to keep it, the Indian government said for the first time yesterday.
The 105-carat Kohinoor diamond, which sits in the Tower of London, has been at the heart of a bitter row between India and Britain ever since it was taken from the Punjab and presented to Queen Victoria in 1849, with India consistently pressing for its return.
But India’s solicitor-general appeared to drop his country’s long-standing objection to British ownership yesterday, telling a judge that, in the opinion of the culture ministry, the diamond had not been “forcibly taken” and was a gift.
"Kohinoor cannot be said to be forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars," said Ranjit Kumar.
The jewel was in the possession of the rulers of Punjab's Sikh Empire when the Anglo-Sikh wars broke out in the late 1840s.
The 105-carat Kohinoor diamond
The East India Company, acting for the British Crown, emerged victorious and had the 10-year-old Maharaja present the jewel to Queen Victoria under the Treaty of Lahore.
A massive, colourless diamond, the Kohinoor is thought to have been mined in southern India in the 1300s. Over the following centuries it changed hands several times among Mughal emperors, Afghan warlords and Indian Maharajas. Perhaps because of the bloody fates of its many previous owners Kohinoor, which means Mountain of Light, came to be feared as “cursed” for any man who wears it.
Accordingly, it now adorns the queen consort’s crown. India’s top court was yesterday hearing a public petition calling on New Delhi to spell out its policy on the gem.
Mr Kumar cited a 43-year-old law that does not allow the government to bring back antiquities taken out of the country before independence unless they were illegally exported. The reason for the apparent reversal in position was not immediately clear, although Mr Kumar told the court that if India claimed treasures like Kohinoor from other countries, “every other nation will start claiming their items from us”.
The Kohinoor diamond, set in the Maltese Cross at the front of the Queen Mother's crown CREDIT: ROYAL COLLECTION TRUST
The comments bore a remarkable similarity to those of David Cameron during a visit to India in 2010, when he was asked if Britain would ever return the gem.
"If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” said the Prime Minister then. "I think I'm afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it's going to have to stay put."
Pakistan has also claimed ownership of the diamond, arguing that the area of the Punjab from which the jewel was taken lies in present-day Pakistan. Britain has always maintained that the diamond was "legitimately acquired”, and its ownership "non-negotiable."
The solicitor-general's comments were criticised by many Indian campaigners yesterday. “The Kohinoor is the essence of the country. They should bring back to India, it is the responsibly of the central government” said Anthony Raju of the All India Human Rights & Social Justice Front, an NGO.
He went on whinging that the gift had been "looted" ....but then he would, wouldn't he? People like that always do. Wonder why he doesn't campaign to have it sent back to Iran, or Afghanistan, since it came from there before it arrived in the Punjab. India didn't even exist as a political entity in the days of the Mughals.