A group of Indian businessmen and Bollywood actors are demanding the return of a sacred 105-carat stone, various media outlets reported Monday. The Koh-i-noor diamond is currently part of Britain’s crown jewels, but those lobbying for its return say it was unjustly stolen from India in the late 19th century. The stone is worth more than $150 million.
Lawyers are set to represent the plaintiffs in London’s High Court, and lawyers indicated they were willing to take the case to the International Court of Justice. The group organizing to return the stone call themselves the “Mountain of Light" and claim to base their case on the Holocaust (Return Of Cultural Objects) Act Of 2009, which was meant to facilitate the return of cultural items stolen by Nazis during the Holocaust.
“The Koh-i-noor is not just a 105-carat stone, but part of our history and culture and should undoubtedly be returned,” said Bollywood actress Bhumicka Singh, who is part of the group lobbying for the stone’s return, according to the Independent,
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The jewel was reportedly given to the reigning Queen by Duleep Singh, the last ruler of the Sikhs, after Britain annexed their area. Activists and some experts have considered the circumstances under which the stone was taken to be dubious. Indian legend holds that the gem can only be worn by God or by women. If worn by a man, he will be cursed by a future of misfortune; if worn by women, she will become powerful. The jewel was in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary.
In a statement likely to draw the ire of activists hoping to see the diamond returned, historian Andrew Roberts told the Daily Mail Sunday: “Those involved in this ludicrous case should recognize 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 modernization, development, protection, agrarian advance, linguistic unification and ultimately the democratization of the sub-continent.”