India is embarking on a diplomatic campaign to reclaim the Koh-i-Noor diamond and numerous other treasures from Britain as part of a significant effort to address its colonial past, according to exclusive information obtained by The Telegraph.
Officials in New Delhi are gearing up for what could be the UK’s largest repatriation claim, surpassing Greece’s pursuit of the Elgin Marbles. India’s government ministers and diplomats will work together to secure the return of potentially thousands of artifacts that were taken to Britain during the era of colonialism. This endeavor is being viewed as a way to come to terms with the past.
The primary objective is to reclaim the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is currently part of the Crown Jewels held in trust for the reigning monarch. The endeavor to regain historical artifacts taken from India is considered a high-level priority in Indian politics, particularly under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The issue may also have an impact on diplomatic discussions between the UK and India, extending beyond cultural matters to trade-related negotiations. Govind Mohan, the secretary for the Indian Ministry of Culture, emphasized the government’s strong commitment to the repatriation of these artifacts, stating that it holds significant importance. Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally champions the cause and has made it a major priority.
The Archaeological Survey of India, a department of the Ministry of Culture, is spearheading the efforts to retrieve objects that were taken out of the country after India gained independence. In one instance, the Ashmolean Museum at Oxford has already been approached regarding a bronze idol that was removed from a temple in southern India.
Officials in New Delhi will lead a coordinated effort to recover artifacts taken during the period of British rule. Sources argue that these objects were effectively stolen due to the “unethical” nature of their removal under colonial coercion.
Diplomats stationed in London will initiate formal requests to institutions that currently possess artifacts acquired as spoils of war or collected by enthusiasts during colonial rule. This process is set to commence later this year. India envisions a comprehensive repatriation of artifacts, even from institutions that require royal permission or changes in parliamentary legislation.
The Koh-i-Noor diamond, weighing 105 carats, was once a prominent feature of the Mughal emperors’ Peacock Throne. It was in the possession of Indian rulers until it was handed over to the East India Company and subsequently given to Queen Victoria after the annexation of Punjab. While the jewel has adorned Queen Mary’s Crown, it was not displayed during the recent coronation.
The return of such a historically significant artifact would hold great symbolism, according to sources within the Indian government. There is a clear political desire to achieve this symbolic victory in the post-colonial context.
Between 1947 and 2014, 13 objects were repatriated to India, but since Modi assumed office in 2014 as the leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, over 300 items, many depicting Hindu deities, have been successfully returned.