A day after the government told the Supreme Court that it won’t request the return of the 106-carat Kohinoor diamond, which is now part of the British crown jewels, the centre has reversed track and said it will work to bring the diamond back.
On Monday, the Solicitor General said that Britain shouldn’t have to give the diamond back, since it was given freely to the British in the mid-19th century by the family of Punjab’s Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and had been “neither stolen nor forcibly taken by British rulers.”
The statement was surprising after decades of demanding the diamond be returned. The loss of the Kohinoor is seen as symbolic of India’s subjugation under British colonial rule, and its return is viewed as partial compensation for centuries of economic exploitation.
But on Tuesday night, the Culture Ministry issued a statement saying it had yet to make its position known.
The court us hearing a petition filed by a rights group asking it to order the government to seek the return of the diamond.
The judges cautioned on Monday that the government’s stand on the British owning the diamond fair and square could jeopardize any future claims; they told the government to take six weeks to reconsider its position.
The diamond is on display in the Tower of London, set in front of the Queen Mother’s crown.
The Kohinoor, which means “Mountain of Light,” was discovered in the Golconda mines in what is now Andhra Pradesh. The large, colorless diamond then passed between Mughal princes, Iranian warriors, Afghan rulers and Punjabi Maharajas before it was given in 1849 to the East India Company, which then offered it to the British queen.
India along with Pakistan and Afghanistan have long squabbled over who has the rightful claim to the diamond.
During a 2010 visit to India, British Prime Minister David Cameron told that the diamond would stay in Britain.
“If you say yes to one (request), you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” Mr Cameron said. “I’m afraid it’s going to have to stay put.”