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THE RETURN OF KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND. SHOULD WE DEMAND ITS RETURN?

THE RETURN OF KOH-I-NOOR DIAMOND. SHOULD WE DEMAND ITS RETURN?

In March 1849, the minor Maharaja Duleep Singh was forced to sign a treaty in which he agreed to give up the throne of Punjab in favor of the queen of england.
When the British entered the Lahore toshakhana they encountered treasures beyond their wildest imagination. A study of historical documents reveals the utter greed of British for the treasures of Punjab. It appears as if the entire exercise of systematically weakening Punjab through intrigues and infighting and eventual takeover of Punjab was only for the jewels in particular the kohinoor. For example, in 1838, one Mr osbourne, military secretary to the Governor General of India, was sent to Punjab specifically with the purpose to see the kohinoor and report on it.
The british greed for kohinoor can be guaged from the the fact that the treaty of surrender included a specific clause mentioning that kohinoor be handed over to them.
Of late there have been calls by many to have the kohinoor returned to Pakistan. Some object and argue that since British were rulers of Punjab at the time, the diamond belongs to them.
So do we have a case of demanding return of kohinoor? Though we should force them to return all the looted wealth irrespective of the legality of their claim, let’s focus on the kohinoor and the circumstances under which it was despatched to the queen.
On 7th April 1849, governor general lord dalhousie wrote to his queen ‘The governor general has now the honour and gratification of announcing to your majesty that the war is at an end, and Punjab has been declared to be a portion of your majesty’s empire in India. In evidence whereof, and in token of Maharaja’s submission to your majesty the governor general, if his policy shall receive the sanction of the government, will have the honour of transmitting to your majesty from Lahore the famous jewel of the Mughal, The kohinoor, the mountain of light’.
However, the chairman of East India Company, Sir Galloway, objected that there was not a single instance where the british crown was considered in any treaty or engagements carried out with any Indian state. According to him all administration of India was vested in the East India Company and ‘… all engagements with native states are made in the name of the company, and ratified by the governor general as company’s servant. The way, therefore, in which Lord Dalhousie has acted upon this occasion appears to be unconstitutional and irregular’.
According to galloway, dalhousie’s proposal of sending the kohinoor to the queen as a gift by the deposed king was illegal since after the treaty it became a property of the east india company.
But the president of the board of East India Company, sir hobhouse, sided with the governor general dalhousie and opined that ‘If it (kohinoor) is to be regarded as booty, It is clearly the crown’s and not the company’s’. But the trouble was that in presence of the treaty of March 1849 between Punjab and the east india company, the diamond could not be considered ‘booty’. But hobhouse provided his own nonsensical justification about the treaty saying that treaty was only a written submission of giving up the throne and nothing else.
The Chairman of the company though, in an effort to assert company’s authority, commanded governor general to hand over the diamond so it could be gifted to the queen by the east India company. Lord Dalhousie though irritated was assured by president of the board Sir Hobhouse, that the diamond shall be presented as a tribute from the abdicated Maharaja of Punjab and not a gift from the company.
Extraordinary measures were taken to transport the diamond from Lahore to Bombay from where it was supposed to start its seabourne journey to England, but that story is for another time and sheds light on the importance that the british attached to the diamond.
On 6th April 1850 the kohinoor left the shores of India never to return (maybe not). So shrouded in mystery was its departure that even captain lockyer, captain of the ship, did not know about the precious cargo on the ship.
On 29th June the diamond reached england and on 3rd July, the kohinoor was handed over to the queen in a ceremony and it was clearly declared to have been handed over to her as a tribute by the vanquished Maharaja of Punjab. This declaration alone renders the handover of kohinoor murky and convoluted if not outright illegal.
Years passed and the british cunningly managed to brainstorm the young deposed Maharaja into converting to Christianity under the influence of his guardians Mr. And Mrs. Login. In 1854, he was finally transferred to England to further alienate him from his land. There, he became a favorite of the queen who was fascinated with his good looks and showered on him all the attention and affection she could.
One day, the queen took Maharaja’s guardian Mrs. login to the side and asked her if the Maharaja ever mentioned the kohinoor or inquired about it. ‘Does he seem to regret it, and would he like to see it again. Find out for me before the next sitting’.
‘Yes indeed’ was his reply ‘I would give a good deal to hold it in my own hand’.
Seeing as he was bitter about it, Mrs Login asked him about change in his behavior to which he replied ‘I was but a child, an infant, when FORCED to surrender it by treaty. But now that i am a man, i would like to have it in my power to place it myself in her hand’.
The next day, while posing for his famous Winterhalter portrait, the queen opened the door and asked him to come over as she had something to show him.
Once more, the Maharaja found himself in presence of the kohinoor that he rightfully owned. The queen asked him if he thought the diamond had improved. Instead of replying, he walked with the diamond towards the window. Mrs. Login is reported to have said that her heart came into her throat thinking he was about to throw it out of the window.
‘It is to me ma’am’ said Duleep breaking the nerve wracking silence ‘the greatest pleasure thus to have the opportunity, as a loyal subject, of myself tendering to my sovereign the kohinoor’.
But that was not the end. Around 10 years later when he was finally reunited with his mother Maharani Jindan, he was told of his lost kingdom and his religion. He was now a mature man who finally understood what the criminal britishers had done with him and his kingdom let alone the jewels. He was to later start a secret struggle to reclaim his kingdom. In the process he declared once more that kohinoor and other jewels were forcibly taken from him and demanded their return. He died empty handed. His struggle and british efforts in frustrating his efforts is another tale of british chicanery.
There is an old legend which is still remembered by elders of the city that the kohinoor will one day make a return to Lahore.
The british came in to loot and plunder our wealth and had the gall to subject us to worst racism while enriching themselves at our expense. A racism that still goes on and we, the people of the land who financed their progress, wealth and treasures still give in to it while they sit quietly in one corner of Europe posing as champions of ethics and human rights after commiting worst organized and institutional atrocities in history of mankind.

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