According to The Daily Telegraph, India is set to initiate a monumental campaign to reclaim artifacts ensconced in British museums and royal collections, with the illustrious Kohinoor diamond at its forefront. This move is poised to be one of the most significant repatriation claims ever faced by the United Kingdom, surpassing even Greece’s demand for the return of the Elgin Marbles.
The objective of repatriating these historical treasures is a paramount priority for the administration led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Since assuming office in 2014, Modi has been instrumental in steering India towards progressive reforms and international recognition. This ambitious endeavor is likely to cast ripples across diplomatic and trade discussions between India and the UK, marking another significant milestone in Modi’s tenure.
The Archeological Survey of India (ASI) is orchestrating efforts to reclaim artifacts removed from India since its independence. The ASI, alongside Indian diplomats in London, are anticipated to submit formal requests to entities possessing artifacts deemed as “spoils of war” or amassed by collectors during the era of colonial rule. The process will initially target smaller museums and private collectors, considered more amenable to voluntarily relinquishing Indian artifacts, before attention shifts towards larger institutions and royal collections.
Union Culture Secretary Govind Mohan has underscored the importance of this initiative to Indian policy-making, attributing the drive behind this effort to the personal commitment of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has already been approached regarding a bronze idol taken from a South Indian temple. Sathnam Sanghera, a noted author on the British Empire, expressed certainty regarding the repatriation of Indian artifacts taken during the colonial rule.
Born in the Golconda mines of Hyderabad, India, the fabled Kohinoor diamond was a breathtaking 793-carat wonder that originally adorned a deity in a Warangal temple during the Kakatiya dynasty in the late thirteenth century. After passing through the hands of various Indian dynasties, it fell into the possession of the British Raj during a period of turmoil.
In a cruel twist of fate, the young Maharaja Duleep Singh of Punjab was coerced into signing the infamous Lahore Treaty in 1849, which resulted in the Kohinoor being “surrendered” to Queen Victoria of England. This marked the end of the diamond’s journey in its homeland. Regrettably, the diamond’s grandeur was lost on its new owners who, failing to appreciate its natural beauty, ordered it to be recut and polished, reducing its size drastically from an already diminished 186 carats to a mere 108.93 carats.
The diamond, currently embedded in the British Crown, was recently in the spotlight during Queen Camilla’s coronation. A high-ranking ASI official in New Delhi has noted that sincere and dedicated efforts are underway to repatriate artifacts from foreign countries. ASI spokesperson, Vasant Swarnkar, emphasized the remarkable increase in repatriations since 2014, the year Prime Minister Narendra Modi of the BJP assumed office. Swarnkar highlighted,
“Since Independence, India has successfully repatriated 251 artifacts. Significantly, 238 of these – a whopping majority – were reclaimed under the proactive Modi administration since 2014.” This underscores the commitment of the BJP government to Indian heritage, in stark contrast to the previous seven decades of Congress rule, which saw little to no concerted efforts in this direction. Furthermore, Swarnkar added, around 100 more artifacts from countries such as the UK and the US are currently in the process of being repatriated, testament to the ongoing efforts of the Modi-led government.