Legal battle launched to take Koh-i-Noor diamond back to India

The stunning Koh-i-Noor diamond could be stripped from the Crown Jewels and returned to India, if a newly launched legal battle is successful.

British lawyers instructed by the ‘Mountain of Light’ group (the translation of Koh-i-Noor) are attempting to return to gem to its original home. They are basing their case on the Holocaust Return of Cultural Objects Act, which gives national institutions in the UK the power to return stolen art.

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother's Crown. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother’s Crown, the Koh-i-Noor sits in the center above the jewelled band. Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2014

Sitting in the ‘Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother’s Crown’, the 105 carat diamond was given to Queen Victoria by the last ruler of the Sikhs, Duleep Singh, after the British annexe of the Punjab. Before it was cut, it was a stunning 189 carats.

The Koh-i-Noor was added to Elizabeth’s Garrard-made crown – and not her husband’s for the Coronation in 1937 – as legend states only women or God can wear it: men who do so will meet a sticky end.

Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary also wore the legendary diamond in their crowns.

The impressive stone, thought to be worth more than £100 million, is first mentioned in 1304, and numerous groups have laid claim to it over the years, including Pakistan, India, Iran and even the Taliban.

However, historian Andrew Roberts disagrees with the campaign, and told The Mail on Sunday: “Those involved in this ludicrous case should recognise that the British Crown Jewels is precisely the right place for the Koh-i-Noor diamond to reside, in grateful recognition for over three centuries of British involvement in India, which led to the modernisation, development, protection, agrarian advance, linguistic unification and ultimately the democratisation of the sub-continent.”

David de Souza, who is helping to fund the legal battle for leisure group Tito’s, said: “The Koh- i-Noor is one of the many artefacts taken from India under dubious circumstance.”

Bollywood star Bhumicka Singh supports the fight: “The Koh-i-Noor is not just a 105-carat stone, but part of our history and culture and should undoubtedly be returned.”

The campaign has been ongoing since 2013, alongside a call for monetary reparations for plundering during British rule in India, though the launch of a legal battle is new. The Indian Prime Minister will begin a visit to the UK on Wednesday 11th, though the controversial topic will not be brought up.

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