India Reportedly Aims to Return Koh-i-Noor Diamond & Other Colonial-Era Artifacts From UK
18:11 14.05.2023 (Updated: 10:48 03.08.2023)
The Koh-i-Noor, or "mountain of light," in Persian, is one of the largest cut diamonds in the world and is part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom. It was given to Queen Victoria following the British East India Company's annexation of Punjab in 1849.
India is planning to embark on a long-term diplomatic campaign to reclaim thousands of artifacts dating back to colonial times, including the Koh-i-Noor diamond and other historical items displayed in museums across the UK, a British media outlet has reported.
The report, citing Indian officials, underlined that the repatriation campaign is one of the priorities
of Narendra Modi’s prime ministership, and is expected to spill over into diplomatic and trade talks between the two nations.
"It is of huge importance to the government. The thrust of this effort to repatriate India’s artifacts comes from the personal commitment of prime minister Narendra Modi, who has made it a major priority," Govind Mohan, secretary for the Indian Ministry of Culture, is quoted as saying.
It was noted that Indian ministerial and diplomatic staff will be mobilized to return thousands of artifacts seized by Britain during the colonial era, in what was called a "reckoning with the past."
However, the main goal is to secure the reclamation of the Koh-i-Noor diamond. The 105-carat diamond, which once topped the Mughal emperors' Peacock Throne, was handed over to the East India Company by Indian rulers and then given to Queen Victoria after the annexation of Punjab, northwestern India. The diamond is set in the Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.
According to the report, the reclamation campaign is set to start this year, with officials in New Delhi coordinating a separate push for the return of historical items. It is expected that Indian diplomats in London will make official requests to museums and other institutions holding artifacts.
The media underscored that the campaign is likely to target charities, small museums and private collectors first, as they are able to repatriate artifacts and may be more willing to voluntarily hand them over to Indian authorities.
Next, it is expected to turn to larger institutions, as well as royal collections. It was stated that the British Museum would be one of the organizations to face claims for its collection of Hindu statues and the Amaravati Marbles. Moreover, the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Indian collection is expected to be subjected to the effort as well.
However, the above mentioned institutions are legally obliged to keep their collections intact. Therefore, the process of repatriation of the artifacts held by these museums will require royal permission or parliamentary legislative change.
Another treasure from the crown jewels, the Cullinan I diamond, also known as the Great Star of Africa, has recently been subjected to repatriation claims by South African activists
, who launched a petition, gathering over 8,000 signatures.
The Cullinan diamond, the biggest rough diamond ever discovered, weighing 3,106 carats, was discovered in 1905 in Cullinan, South Africa, and named after Thomas Cullinan, the owner of the mine. In 1907, the Transvaal Colony government presented the diamond to Edward VII, who reigned over the United Kingdom and the British Dominions at the time.
The Cullinan I, the largest of a number of jewels struck from the vast gem and presented to the king, is mounted on the Sovereign's Scepter with Cross. The petition is addressed
to the UK's King Charles III and other high officials for the diamond to be returned and displayed in a South African museum. An advocate for the petition, Kamanga Mothusi, told Sputnik that this kind of activity is of paramount significance
for South Africa as the diamond is a symbol of the nation's pride, culture, and heritage.