Government on Tuesday night made a U-turn on the Kohinoor issue saying it will make all efforts to bring back the valued diamond. It had said in the Supreme Court that the diamond was “neither stolen nor forcibly” taken by British rulers but given to it by erstwhile rulers of Punjab.
In a statement, the government claimed it has not yet conveyed its views to the court “contrary to what is being misrepresented” in the media.
The government statement came a day after the Solicitor General told the Supreme Court, “Kohinoor cannot be said to have been forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars.”
The court was hearing a PIL which sought government action for the return of over USD 200 million Kohinoor diamond from the UK.
Wishing to put on record that the news items on the issue “are not based on facts”, the official release said the government reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor Diamond in an amicable manner.
The release said the factual position is that the matter is sub-judice at present and the PIL is yet to be admitted.
“The Solicitor General of India was asked to seek the views of the government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The Solicitor General of India informed the honourable court about the history of the diamond and gave an oral statement on the basis of the existing references made available by the ASI.
“Thus, it should be reaffirmed that the government of India has not yet conveyed its views to the court, contrary to what is being misrepresented,” it said.
The release also noted that the court granted six weeks time on the prayer of the Solicitor General to take instructions for making his submission in the matter.
“… With regard to the Kohinoor Diamond too, government of India remains hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” it added.
“The status report on which the preliminary submission was made by the Solicitor General have references to the stand taken by Governments earlier that the Kohinoor was a gift and cannot be categorised as an object stolen.
“The material further has references to the views of India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru dating back to 1956. Pandit Nehru went on record saying that there is no ground to claim this art treasure back. He also added that efforts to get the Kohinoor back would lead to difficulties,” the release said.
According to the release, Nehru also said, “To exploit our good relations with some country to obtain free gifts from it of valuable articles does not seem to be desirable. On the other hand, it does seem to be desirable that foreign museums should have Indian objects of art.”
Ever since Narendra Modi has taken over as Prime Minister, it said his efforts led to three significant pieces of India’s history coming back home which did not affect the relations with the respective countries.
“In October 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel returned a 10th century Indian statue of Goddess Durga that was stolen in 1990 and found in 2012 at a museum in Germany.
“In April 2015, then Canadian PM Stephen Harper returned a sculpture known as the ‘Parrot Lady’, which dates back to almost 900 years.
“Then Australian PM Tony Abbott, on his India visit in 2014 had returned antique statues of Hindu deities that were in Australian art galleries.
“None of these gestures affected India’s relations with either Canada, Germany or Australia. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as the Chief Minister got back the ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma almost 70 years after his death,” the release said.