By Olivia Singh | 3rd October 2022
The Kohinoor diamond is the largest cut diamond in the world, it has a gory history of colonial conquest and now stands as a star of the Crown Jewels. Since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, there have been renewed demands made for the Kohinoor diamond to be returned to India. The age-old question stands: Will the British return the diamond to India?
David Cameron, former Prime Minister of the UK, told the Indian TV channel NDTV that this would not be happening, he stated:
“If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” he said. “I think I am afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it is going to have to stay put.”
For the British to return the diamond to India, they would have to be willing to atone for their colonial crimes. Cameron prefers that stolen goods remain stolen for display in the British Museum. Until the British colonial mentality ends, nothing will be returned to looted countries.
It is argued by Britain that they are the legal owners of the diamond, and India’s Supreme Court ruled that the diamond was never stolen from India but was obtained by Britain through a legal treaty. Duleep Singh, the last Maharaja of the Sikh Empire who owned the diamond was forced by the British to sign a legal document amending the Treaty of Lahore, which required him to give up all claim to sovereignty and give the diamond to Britain. Singh did not willingly give the diamond to the British, he had to comply with their demands.
The Government of India has demanded the Kohinoor’s return on various occasions. Upon India’s independence in 1947, the government asked for the diamond back. The government made another demand for the diamond to be returned in the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. The British government has however always refused to return the Kohinoor to India. In 2010, ASI Director-General Gautam Sengupta asked the UK for the Kohinoor and other artefacts to be returned, but once again, the UK refused. If there is a chance of atonement being given to the British for their colonial crimes, they should be incredibly eager to take it. Instead, Britain continues to upset not only Indians by keeping valuable artefacts, but also those from other countries who have had their possessions stolen by the British. South Africans have been demanding the return of the Great Star of Africa diamond, also known as the Cullinan I diamond, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s claimed by South Africans that it’s the world’s largest cut colourless diamond and that it is a cultural artefact that was seized by British colonial troops. Currently, the gem is kept with other jewels in the Tower of London.
It is unlikely that Britain will return the diamond to India or give back any other stolen artefacts in the near future. Currently, Queen Consort Camilla has the Kohinoor in her crown. Until British leaders have the will to atone for Britain’s imperial past, looted objects will continue to be displayed with pride in the British Museum. The British continue to benefit from their colonial past and must acknowledge this without attempting to hide pieces of information about their colonial conquests. Britain’s role in colonisation must be taught in schools, so that future generations fully understand British colonial rule and the long-lasting impact it has had and continues to have on people all over the world. Maybe then, stolen objects and objects acquired by force will be returned to their respective countries in the future.