July 29, 2015 | By Sikh Federation UK
London, UK: Keith Vaz MP today called for the world-famous ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond to be returned to India during Narendra Modi’s UK visit in November.
Keith Vaz’s comments came in response to Congress MP Shashi Tharoor’s speech in May calling on Britain to pay reparations to India. Earlier today Keith Vaz said: “I welcome Dr Tharoor’s speech and the endorsement of its message by Prime Minister Modi. I share their views. These are genuine grievances which must be addressed.”
“There is no excuse for not returning precious items such as the Koh-i-Noor diamond, a campaign I have backed for many years. What a wonderful moment it would be, if and when Prime Minister Modi finishes his visit, which is much overdue, he returns to India with the promise of the diamond’s return.”
Bhai Amrik Singh Gill, the Chair of the Sikh Federation (UK), the largest and most prominent Sikh organisation in the UK has said: “India has no claim on the ‘Koh-i-Noor’ diamond.”
“It has been stated in debate in the UK Parliament that it is a Sikh artefact. There were many others that were stolen from the Sikh Kingdom that need to be catalogued and preserved for the worldwide Sikh community.”
“The Indian regime is the last one on earth Sikhs can trust in preserving the rich Sikh heritage following the confiscation and destruction of priceless documents and scriptures in the Sikh Reference Library in June 1984.”
“Indian politicians, whether it be Narendra Modi, Shashi Tharoor or Keith Vaz can demand what ever they want, but they can not re-write the Anglo-Sikh history or deny what happen in 1984.”
“The diamond belonged to the Sikhs and the Koh-i-Noor should remain in Britain until the re-establishment of the Sikh homeland when such matters can be discussed and resolved.”
The Koh-i-Noor belonged to the Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh who died in 1839. This was followed by the First and Second Sikh Wars (1845 and 1848) and the annexation of the Sikh Kingdom by the British.
On 29 March 1849, the British flag was hoisted in Lahore and the Sikh Kingdom came under occupation and was annexed. One of the terms of the Treaty of Lahore, the legal agreement formalising this occupation, was as follows: ‘The gem called the Koh-i-Noor (belonging to Maharajah Ranjit Singh) shall be surrendered by the Maharajah of Lahore to the Queen of England.’ Lord Dalhousie arranged for the diamond to be presented by Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s successor, the young Maharaja Duleep Singh, under duress to Queen Victoria in the UK in 1851.
There are many countries that have tried to claim the Koh-i-Noor, including the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. In 1976, Pakistan prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto asked British Labour Prime Minister Jim Callaghan for the Koh-i-Noor to be returned to Pakistan. The prime minister replied to Mr Bhutto with a polite “No”.
There have been repeated requests by India. When the Queen made a state visit to India to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s independence from Britain in 1997, many Indians demanded the return of the diamond. In February 2013 David Cameron on the final day of a three day visit to India said the Koh-i-Noor would stay in Britain and ruled out returning the gem to India.
Bhai Amrik Singh added: “The UK Government should once and for all tell the likes of India, Pakistan and others the rightful ownership and future of the Koh-i-Noor is a matter for Britain and the Sikhs with whom they have a number of treaties.”
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