India intends to pursue all possible avenues to get back the famed 106-carat Kohinoor, currently set in a royal crown on display in the Tower of London, despite the British government’s recent statement that there is no legal ground for restitution of the diamond.
With an estimated value of over USD 200 million, Kohinoor was transferred to the treasury of the British East India Company in Lahore after the subjugation of Punjab in 1849 by the British forces, which had confiscated the properties of the Sikh Empire.
“The government is considering both diplomatic as well as legal channels to get back the diamond. If India is able to get back the diamond through diplomatic efforts, then it would not go for the legal channel. But if that does not fructify, then the government will explore legal option,” a senior government source said.
Only recently, the UK minister of Asia and Pacific affairs, Alok Sharma, indicated that the Kohinoor could probably never find its way to India. “As far as this issue is concerned, there is no legal ground for restitution,” he said during his visit here last week.
Shiromani Gurdwara Prabankdhak Committee (SGPC), which represents the Sikh community, jumped into the matter to stake claim over the precious gem.
SGPC chief secretary Harcharan Singh urged the Centre to take up the matter with the British government and demand its return to the Sikh community.
Punjab cabinet minister Daljit Singh Cheema also said the state has the “legitimate right” over the diamond and claimed that it was taken away in a “deceitful” manner by the British from Maharaja Duleep Singh who was last Sikh ruler of Punjab.
As political pressure mounts on the government to bring back the diamond, which also is an emotive issue, culture minister Mahesh Sharma had a meeting with external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj recently where it was reportedly decided that India would approach Britain next month on the issue of bringing it back.
The Supreme Court is hearing a case seeking Kohinoor’s return and the meeting had also deliberated on taking the government before the apex court. The court had asked the government whether it was willing to stake a claim on the diamond.
The Kohinoor issue snowballed into a major controversy after the government made a submission in the Supreme Court in April that it was neither “forcibly taken nor stolen” by the British but given as a “gift” to the East India Company by the rulers of Punjab, indicating it cannot be claimed by India now.
The gem is the subject of a historical ownership dispute and has been claimed by at least four countries, including India.