The Indian government has changed its mind about who the 106-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond belongs to just days after the solicitor general told the supreme court that Britain shouldn’t have to give it back.
The diamond has been part of Britain’s crown jewels for more than 100 years and formed part of the crown worn by the Queen Mother.
India had been seeking the return of the Koh-i-Noor for decades after it was allegedly surrendered in 1849 to Queen Victoria’s representatives following the Anglo-Sikh war in the Punjab.
In a hearing of a case calling for the stone’s return on 18 April, India’s solicitor general told the supreme court that the most famous diamond in the crown jewels was in fact a gift to Britain.
“It was given voluntarily by [Punjab Maharaja] Ranjit Singh to the British as compensation for help in the Sikh wars,” he said. “The Koh-i-noor is not a stolen object”.
However, in a dramatic turn of events, India’s culture ministry issued a statement on 19 April which vowed to make every effort to bring the diamond back.
For many Indians, the loss of the diamond represents the nation being stripped of its freedom under British colonial rule and its return would be viewed as compensation for centuries of economic exploitation.
In 2010, Prime Minister David Cameron told Indian media that Britain would not be returning the diamond during a visit to the country.
“If you say yes to one [request], you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” Cameron said. “I’m afraid it’s going to have to stay put.”