Is India mobilising a new campaign to ‘repatriate’ the Koh-i-Noor diamond?
Indian government sources have denied a report that claims the country is launching a new campaign to “reclaim” the Koh-i-Noor diamond from Britain, along with other treasures.
With the spotlight falling on the Koh-i-Noor around the coronation last week – the 105-carat gem is one of the Crown Jewels held in trust for the King – a new report in The Telegraph said that Indian ministerial and diplomatic staff would be mobilised to secure the return of potentially thousands of artefacts taken to Britain during colonial rule in what one source described as a “reckoning with the past”.
The “goal” of the policy shift is ultimately to return the Koh-i-Noor diamond, the report stated, adding that the reclamation of treasures was seen as “one of the priorities of Narendra Modi’s premiership”.
“It is of huge importance to the government,” Govind Mohan, secretary for the Indian ministry of culture, was quoted as saying to the outlet, about the return of the antiquities. “The thrust of this effort to repatriate India’s artefacts comes from the personal commitment of prime minister Narendra Modi, who has made it a major priority.”
He said that returning antiquities will form a key part of India’s policy making.
The bid to return the jewels to India is being led by the Archaeological Survey of India, a branch of the country’s federal culture ministry, said the report.
Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has already been approached regarding a bronze idol taken from a temple in southern India.
The process, which is due to begin this year, will also include diplomats in London who will make formal requests to institutions holding artefacts seized as spoils of war or collected by enthusiasts during colonial rule.
Authorities in India have denied there is any new campaign or policy regarding historic treasures, however, according to sources cited in a report by Indian broadcaster NDTV.
They said it was not true that ministerial and diplomatic resources were to be mobilised toward securing the return of thousands of artefacts from the UK, and said that any efforts to retrieve antiquities would be made through cooperation and within existing international arrangements.
And while they did not deny the comments attributed to Mr Mohan, they said he never mentioned the Koh-i-Noor specifically.
The Independent has reached out to India’s external affairs ministry for a comment.
The Koh-i-Noor, one of the world’s largest cut diamonds, is set in the platinum crown which was made for Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI, in the 1930s. It was placed on the Queen Mother’s coffin during her 2002 funeral.
While the jewel was meant to be passed to Queen Camilla, she chose alternative diamonds for her crown during the coronation.
The diamond has been at the centre of political and legal controversy in India amid disputes over its ownership, with claims made from not just India but Pakistan as well.