Should India Bring Back the Kohinoor Diamond?

Kohinoor Diamond

Kohinoor Diamond

One of the latest news creating raves among the people of India and media fraternity is the call for bringing back Kohinoor diamond, the pride possession of India, which was taken by the British many years ago. The big question is “Should India Bring Back Kohinoor Diamond”? The fight to get back the diamond, which started since India’s independence, is continuing even today. Before getting into the legal proceedings, let us first know why the Kohinoor diamond was shifted to UK.

Kohinoor Diamond History

  • The diamond was discovered during the 13th century.
  • It fell into the hands of Alauddin Khilji in the 14th century when his army began looting the kingdoms in southern India.
  • It continued to stay with the succeeding dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate.
  • It was in 1526, the diamond came into the possession of Babur, who established the Mughal empire in India.
  • Babur’s memoir finds a mention of the diamond.
  • The diamond stayed with the Mughal rulers till 1739 when Nader Shah, the Shah of Persia, invaded Delhi and brought an end to the Mughal empire.
  • The diamond came into the hands of the Persians.
  • After the death of Nader Shah, Ahmad Shah Durrani, one of his generals, became the proud owner.
  • It then came into the hands of his descendant, Shah Shujah Durrani.
  • When he was overthrown by Mahmud Shah, he managed to escape to Lahore with the diamond and took refuge at the residence Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the founder of the Sikh Empire.
  • In return for his hospitality, the diamond was given to Maharaj Ranjit Singh in 1813.

How did the UK get the Kohinoor diamond?

  • In 1849, when Punjab was subjugated by British forces, all properties of the Sikh Empire were confiscated by the British as per the last treaty of Lahore.
  • During this time, the Kohinoor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore.
  • In 1850, the diamond was brought to Britain and was handed over to Queen Victoria. It was further cut to improve its brilliance and was mounted into Queen Victoria’s crown.
  • Today, the Kohinoor diamond rests in the Tower of London along with the Crown Jewels.

Kohinoor Diamond Facts

This large, colourless and uncut diamond weighing 793 carats (158.6 g) was discovered in the 13th century near Guntur in Andhra Pradesh. With the course of time and change of ownership over the years, Prince Albert, in 1852, ordered the diamond to be cut. He was not happy with its dull and irregular appearance. Kohinoor was transformed into a dazzling oval-cut brilliant stone weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 g) and measuring 3.6 cm x 3.2 cm x 1.3 cm.

The Demand

  • Bringing Kohinoor diamond back to India has been a long-standing demand.
  • The first demand came immediately after the country’s independence, believing that the gem rightfully belonged to the Indians.
  • A second request came in 1953, the year when Queen Elizabeth II was crowned.
  • The demand for the return of the diamond was also made when Queen Elizabeth II came to India in 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence from Britain.
  • In 2000, several members of the Indian Parliament signed a letter claiming that the Kohinoor was taken away illegally.
  • The demand was also made when the UK Prime Minister David Cameron visited India.

While India longed for the return of Kohinoor for years, the British government refuted the claims and said that the ownership of the stone was non-negotiable.

The Present Status

On 18 April 2016, the central government of India told the Supreme Court that India cannot and should not stake claim to the Kohinoor diamond because the diamond was not stolen but handed over to the East India Company by Maharaja Ranjit Singh after he lost the 1849 Sikh War.

Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar, Centre’s counsel, told the apex court that according to law, the government has no right to bring back antiques taken out of the country before independence. However, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) can take up issues of claiming back only those precious items and antiquities that have been illegally exported out of the country, under the provisions of the Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

The proceedings are still going on as a petition was filed by All India Human Rights and Social Justice Front in the Supreme Court where it was mentioned that the government was not making efforts to bring the Kohinoor back.