The Kohinoor diamond sits atop the Maltese Cross and demands have grown that the diamond be returned to India where it was mined and crafted (Image: PTI)
The issue of repatriation of Indian jewels and artefacts is among the priorities of the PM Modi’s government and likely to spill over into diplomatic and trade talks between the two countries
India is planning to launch a campaign to repatriate items in British museums and held by the royal family, including the controversial Kohinoor diamond, later this year, a report has claimed.
The Narendra Modi-led government is preparing one of the largest repatriation claims faced by the UK, considered to be even bigger than Greece’s demands for the Elgin Marbles, The Daily Telegraph said in a report.
The report also said that the issue is among the priorities of the PM Modi’s government and likely to spill over into diplomatic and trade talks between the two countries.
While the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) is said to be leading efforts to reclaim objects sent out of the country since independence, officials are believed to be coordinating with diplomats in London to make formal requests to institutions holding artefacts seized as “spoils of war” or collected by enthusiasts during colonial rule.
“The long work of repatriation will begin with what is considered the easiest targets, small museums and private collectors, who may be more willing to voluntarily hand over Indian artefacts, and then efforts will turn to larger institutions and Royal collections,” the report said.
Union culture secretary Govind Mohan said that returning antiquities from the UK would form a key part of India’s policy-making.
“It is of huge importance to the government. 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 reportedly said.
According to the report, the Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has already been approached regarding a bronze idol taken from a South Indian temple.
Sathnam Sanghera, a leading writer on British Empire, said it is inevitable that the Indian jewels and artefacts looted under colonial rule will be returned.
“Our museums and the royal family are in possession of billions of pounds worth of Indian loot. It was a systematic part of colonial rule. The royal family was given the king’s share of that loot. When we annexed parts of India and Burma (now Myanmar), there were representatives of our museums there to take things, soldiers took loot and sold it,” Sanghera told The Guardian.
“These countries are future superpowers or superpowers already, they are not going to shut up about it,” he added.
The Kohinoor, also known as Koh-i-Noor or mountain of light in Persian, was in the spotlight at last week’s Coronation with Queen Camilla averting a diplomatic row by choosing alternative diamonds for her consort’s crown.
The 105-carat diamond was held by rulers in India before landing in the hands of the East India Company from Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s treasury and then being presented to Queen Victoria following the annexation of Punjab.
In New Delhi, a senior official of the ASI said concerted efforts are being made to repatriate artefacts from out of the country.
“Since Independence, 251 artefacts have been brought back to India, and 238 of these have been repatriated since 2014,” ASI spokesperson Vasant Swarnkar said.
“Besides, about 100 artefacts are in the process of being repatriated, from countries including the UK, and the US,” he said.
Leave a Reply