Only Am­i­ca­ble Route Open to In­dia

The Economic Times - - Living Room -

A day af­ter in­form­ing the Supreme Court that the much fa­bled Ko­hi­noor diamond was ‘gifted’ to the East In­dia Com­pany, the Cen­tre turned around the next day to claim in­stead its deep “re­solve to make all pos­si­ble ef­forts to bring back the Ko­hi­noor Diamond”.

Rounds of meet­ings have al­ready be­gun be­tween the min­istry of ex­ter­nal af­fairs, cul­ture min­istry and the law min­istry to pre­pare an ‘ac­tion plan’ for the re­trieval of the fa­bled stone. The only route found so far is the ‘am­i­ca­ble’ one and with good rea­son.

There are le­gal pro­vi­sions in ef­fect that pre­vent any­thing other than an am­i­ca­ble route to bring back the diamond. One be­ing In­dia’s An­tiq­ui­ties and Art Trea­sures Act, 1972 that has pro­vi­sions for pre­ven­tion of smug­gling of and fraud­u­lent deal­ings in an­tiq­ui­ties and also pro­vides for the com­pul­sory ac­qui­si­tion of an­tiq­ui­ties and art trea­sures for preser­va­tion. The Act how­ever does not cover the likes of the Ko­hi­noor as the stone’s ac­qui­si­tion pre­dates In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence. Sim­i­larly, UNESCO Con­ven­tion on the Means of Pro­hibit­ing and Pre­vent­ing the Il­licit Im­port, Ex­port and Trans­fer of Own­er­ship of Cul­tural Prop­erty 1970 does not ap­ply here as In­dia signed it in 1972. Some as­pects re­lated to the ac­qui­si­tion by theBri­tishare­be­in­gle­gal­lyex­am­ined—the­most im­por­tan­tonebe­ingth­atsinceMa­hara­jaDuleep Singh was a mi­nor at the time the Ko­hi­noor was taken away/gifted to the Bri­tish, the va­lid­ity of this trans­ac­tion comes un­der ques­tion.

On the po­lit­i­cal side, the Modi govern­ment has al­ready found a scape­goat in the country’s first PM Jawa­har­lal Nehru, point­ing out of­fi­cially that he had taken a po­si­tion that al­lowed the diamond to be re­tained by the Bri­tain in the in­ter­est of good diplo­matic re­la­tions.

“We are quite clear that we will make ev­ery ef­fort pos­si­ble to get the Ko­hi­noor back but we are equally clear that this has to be done in an am­i­ca­ble man­ner. The PMO, the MEA, have also stepped in to look at the is­sue closely and work on ways to do so. It is a sen­si­tive diplo­matic is­sue and will be dealt with ac­cord­ingly. Meet­ings on the mat­ter be­gan right af­ter the court hear­ing and we will present a strong view reit­er­at­ing our re­solve to get the Ko­hi­noor back in our re­sponse to the court in six weeks’ time”, highly placed of­fi­cials from the cul­ture min­istry told ET. The min­istry is also quite un­happy with the role of the Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Sur­vey of In­dia which sup­plied the So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral the con­tro­ver­sial brief­ing that sug­gested that the Ko­hi­noor was given away as a gift.

The cul­ture min­istry claims it was not kept in the loop by the ASI- an au­ton­o­mous or­ga­ni­za­tion un­der the min­istry. The Cen­tre ac­tu­ally stepped in only when the is­sue boiled over on so­cial me­dia at­tract­ing con­sid­er­able crit­i­cism of the Modi govern­ment.

It is learnt that the PMO in­ter­vened the very next day, co­or­di­nated rounds of meet­ings with all stake­hold­ers and en­sured that a more nu­anced state­ment was is­sued that very evening as­suringoftheModigov­ern­ment’scom­mit­ment to bring­ing back the diamond but am­i­ca­bly so— fac­tor­ing in the real dif­fi­cul­ties of do­ing so.

ASI of­fi­cials de­clined to com­ment on the mat­ter say­ing it was now a diplo­matic is­sue.

“The Ko­hi­noor was talked of but not re­ally se­ri­ously pon­dered over. While I have spent years at ASI, I do not re­call any such ef­fort by the var­i­ous govern­ments to get it back. It was al­wayskept­in­mindthatthe­di­a­mon­dan­dan­tiq­uity can­not be re­trieved as per the An­tiq­ui­ties law. There is only one way to re­trieve it if at all and that is through bi­lat­eral re­la­tions if the Royal fam­ily of Eng­land agrees to it and if the sen­ti­ment also finds favour with the peo­ple of UK”, Dr BR Mani, well known ar­chae­ol­o­gist who served as Ad­di­tional Di­rec­tor Gen­eral of ASI un­til his re­tire­ment last year, told ET.

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