India to Britain: Guess you didn't steal our diamond after all
The Indian government appeared to concede Monday that a spectacular diamond made its way to Britain fair and square — as a gift.
As part of a public interest filing seeking the gem's return, India's solicitor general, Ranjit Kumar, told the country's supreme court Monday that the coveted jewel was not stolen or forcibly taken away, as many in India have long argued.
The stone called Koh-i-Noor, or Mountain of Light, was believed to have been mined in what is the present day Indian state of Andhra Pradesh centuries ago. The diamond is now part of the glittering purple-velvet Queen Mother's Crown in the Tower of London. Visitors partial to India have been known to hiss at it when they walk by.
It passed through the hands of various sultans, warlords and Mughal emperors before ending up the possession of Maharajah Ranjit Singh, a Sikh warrior of Punjab. He had wanted it to go to a Hindu temple upon his death, but the British secured it in the Treaty of Lahore and his heir presented it to Queen Victoria in 1850, historians say.
“It was given voluntarily by Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh Wars. The Koh-i-Noor is not a stolen object,” Kumar argued before the court.
Various politicians and interest groups from India, Pakistan, Iran and Afghanistan have tried to lay claim on the diamond over the years, but the British have said they will not return it. Prime Minister David Cameron has said he does not believe in “returnism,” and if they started down that road, well, then the British Museum would be empty.