Yesterday, Govt said Kohinoor was a gift, today it wants it back

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A day after it told the Supreme Court that the Kohinoor diamond was neither “forcibly taken nor stolen” by British rulers, but given as a “gift” to East India Company by rulers of Punjab, the Centre on Tuesday said “it reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Kohinoor diamond in an amicable manner”.

On Monday, when the bench asked whether the government was still open to staking a claim on the Kohinoor, Solicitor General (SG) Ranjit Kumar had said, “If we claim our treasures like Kohinoor from other countries, every other nation will start claiming their items from us. There will be nothing left in our museums.”

Ally Shiromani Akali Dal was among the critics. “The government stand on Kohinoor is wrong. We are going to take it up with the MEA. The stand needs to be revised. The Punjab government will try to become a party to the case in the Supreme Court. I am also going to request the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee to take up the case,” SAD MP Prem Singh Chandumajra told The Indian Express. The Congress, too, had said the government must keep up efforts to bring back the Kohinoor.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the central government said, “The Government of India wishes to put on record that certain news items appearing in the press regarding the Kohinoor diamond are not based on facts.”

“The SG was asked to seek the views of the Government of India, which have not yet been conveyed. The SG 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,” it said. “The factual position is that the matter is sub judice at present. A PIL has been filed in the Honourable Supreme Court that is yet to be admitted.”

The government also sought to put the onus on Jawaharlal Nehru for its stated position, and said that “the status report on which the preliminary submission was made by the Solicitor General has 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 Pandit 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 statement said.

“Pandit 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’,” the government said.

The statement said that “ever since he has taken over as PM, Narendra Modi’s efforts led to three significant pieces of India’s history coming back home”. Last year, Germany returned a 10th Century statue of Goddess Durga that was stolen in 1990, and Canada returned a sculpture known as the Parrot Lady, which dates back almost 900 years, the government said.

In 2014, Australia 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,” said the statement, adding that “it was Prime Minister Narendra Modi who, as Chief Minister, got back the ashes of Shyamji Krishna Varma almost 70 years after his death”.

“Thus, with regard to the Kohinoor diamond, too, we remain hopeful for an amicable outcome whereby India gets back a valued piece of art with strong roots in our nation’s history,” the government said.

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