Influential members of the Indian community are calling for the Koh-i-noor diamond to be returned to India ahead of PM Narendra Modi's visit to the UK next week. Lawyers are reportedly being instructed to begin legal proceedings in London's High Court demanding that the Government relinquish the 105-carat diamond and return it to India.
British lawyers instructed by the 'Mountain of Light' group (the translation of Koh-i-Noor) to repatriate it said last night they would base their case on the Holocaust (Return of Cultural Objects) Act, which gives national institutions in the UK the power to return stolen art.
Satish Jakhu, of Birmingham-based law firm Rubric Lois King, said they would make their claim under the common law doctrine of 'trespass to goods', arguing that the Government had stolen the diamond. He added they would also be taking the case to the International Court of Justice Mail Online reports.
David de Souza, of the Indian leisure group Tito's, who is supporting the campaign to return the precious diamond to India said: "The Koh-i-Noor is one of the many artefacts taken from India under dubious circumstance" adding that the theft of artefacts and wealth during colonization had 'destroyed the country's psyche'. Actress Bhumicka Singh added: "The Koh-i-Noor is not just a 105-carat stone, but part of our history and culture and should undoubtedly be returned."
The £100m oval diamond was unearthed at the Kollur Mine in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It was originally 793 carats when uncut and was once the largest known diamond. Now it is a 105.6 metric carat diamond, weighing 21.6g. The diamond was originally owned by the Kakatiya dynasty, which had installed it in a temple of a Hindu goddess.
It was handed over to Queen Victoria in 1851 by the last ruler of the Sikhs, Duleep Singh, after the British annexe of the Punjab. Queen Elizabeth had it crafted into the centre-piece of the crown she wore in 1937 for the Coronation of her husband King George VI. It was placed on the Queen Mother's coffin as it was lying-in-state in 2002. The loss of such a revered gem is widely regarded as a national humiliation in India.
According to legend the jewel can only be worn by which can be worn only 'by God or a woman' and the wearer of the stone would gain great power and status. However if a male acquires it, he would meet a tragic end.
In July, Keith Vaz, the MP for Leicester East, called on Prime Minister David Cameron to return the Koh-i-noor ahead of Modi's visit to the UK. Vaz's comments came after Indian parliamentarian Shashi Tharoor launched a campaign to gain reparations from Britain for its 200-year colonisation of India. Vaz hailed Tharoor for his speech at the Oxford Union saying "these grievances must be addressed".
"I welcome Dr Tharoor's speech and the endorsement of its message by PM Modi. I share their views. These are genuine grievances which must be addressed. Pursuing monetary reparations is complex, time-consuming and potentially fruitless, but there is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years," said Vaz.
The Queen will be hosting a lunch for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Buckingham Palace this week, however a discussion regarding the rightful owner of the diamond is strictly off the agenda. The Government has previously rejected demands for the return of the Koh-i-noor to India.
The Indian prime minister is due to arrive in the UK on 12 November. He will be addressing the British Parliament and holding talks with David Cameron during the three-day visit.
Modi will be the first Indian prime minister to visit the UK in nearly a decade, with the last official visit dating back to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit in 2006. He will leave London on 14 November to fly to Turkey for the G-20 Summit.