Britain faces a legal battle over ownership of the Koh-i-Noor diamond after a Pakistani judge accepted a petition demanding that the Queen hand over the $200 million stone.
Pakistan is the latest country to claim ownership of the 105-carat diamond, one of the largest ever discovered. Britain has dismissed repeated calls from India for the return of the diamond, which was crafted into the crown jewels and is now displayed at the Tower of London. The Koh-i-Noor, meaning mountain of light in Persian, passed through Hindu, Mughal, Turkic, Afghan and Sikh hands before it was seized by the British in the 19th century.
India has long demanded the return of the diamond. It was confiscated by the East India Company and presented to Queen Victoria in 1851 as Britain plundered India’s treasures.
A group of Bollywood stars and Indian businessmen began legal action to secure its return in November.
Pakistan’s legal challenge has been brought by Javed Iqbal Jaffry. He argues that the Koh-i-Noor was mined on land that would become Pakistan upon the partition of India in 1947, when Pakistan became independent. The lawsuit, which names as respondents the Queen and Philip Barton, Britain’s high commissioner to Pakistan, was accepted by the Lahore high court and will now have a further hearing.
After its presentation to Queen Victoria, the Koh-i-Noor was eventually crafted into the crown of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, for the coronation of George VI in 1937.
India’s persistent demands for the stone’s return have drawn comparisons with Greece’s claim on the Elgin Marbles, which were stripped from the Parthenon frieze in Athens and now reside in the British Museum.
Pressed on the issue of the Koh-i-Noor during visits to India in 2010 and again three years ago, David Cameron said that returning the stone was out of the question.
“If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty,” the prime minister said during an Indian TV interview.
“I think I am afraid to say, to disappoint all your viewers, it is going to have to stay put.”
By Hugh Tomlinson
With many thanks to The Australian
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