The colonial “reckoning” campaign supported by top officials in New Delhi will reportedly also target thousands of other items.
India is set to embark on a major diplomatic campaign to retrieve thousands of artifacts, including one of the largest cut diamonds in the world, which had been removed from the country by Britain during the colonial period, The Telegraph reported on Friday, citing sources.
The push to reclaim the treasures lost back in the day of the British Empire is said to “come from the top” echelons of Indian officials. The campaign is also reportedly on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s priority list, with one Telegraph source describing the initiative as “reckoning with the past.”
The effort to return the items will be led by Indian ministerial and diplomatic staff, with Telegraph sources alleging that some officials deem the artifacts taken during British colonial rule as basically stolen due to being “unethically” removed in a state of “colonial coercion.”
The campaign to retrieve the artifacts may mar relations between the UK and India, which was described as Britain’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ during the colonial era due to its vast resources and strategic location, the report says.
Indian diplomats in London are expected to file formal requests with individuals and institutions currently holding the items, with the process set to begin this year.
The campaign will reportedly specifically seek to repatriate the 105-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond. The precious gem, which was once held by Indian rulers, but was acquired by the British during the annexation of the Punjab province in 1849, is currently set in the crown of the late mother of Queen Elizabeth II.
Neither the crown nor the diamond, however, was used during the recent coronation of King Charles III after India’s ruling party warned London that doing so could bring back “painful memories of the colonial past.”
India has repeatedly demanded that the UK return the Koh-i-Noor since 1947 when it gained independence, but without success. London has insisted that the diamond was obtained under a valid treaty.
Meanwhile, UK legislation forbids British museums, which store thousands of other items removed from India, from disposing of their possessions except in a few special circumstances.
Nevertheless, in 2022, Glasgow Life Museums agreed to return seven stolen artifacts to India, becoming the first UK museum to make such a move.