A Silicon Valley-based venture capitalist Venkatesh Shukla has started an online petition to get the British government to return the famed Koh-i-Noor diamond to India.
Shukla, general partner at Monta Vista Capital and former president of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) Silicon Valley and Chairman of TiE Global, said he was saddened at the demise of Queen Elizabeth earlier this month, but when he saw the crown, he thought about how the diamond should be brought back to India.
The Koh-i-Noor, also spelled Kohinoor, is one of the world’s largest cut diamonds, weighing 105.6 carats (21.12 gm). It is part of the crown jewels of the United Kingdom. However, it reached the UK after being ceded to the British royal family.
According to legend, the stone was first mined in the Kollur mine in India, during the period of the Kakatiya dynasty, who placed it in the Bhadrakali Temple in Warangal. It was allegedly later acquired by the Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khalji during his invasion of southern India.
However, the first verifiable record of the diamond comes from the 1740s when Muhammad Maharvi notes the Koh-i-Noor as being one of many stones on the Mughal Peacock Throne that Nader Shah looted from Delhi.
The diamond then changed hands between various factions in south and west Asia, until being ceded to Queen Victoria after the British annexation of the Punjab in 1849, during the reign of eleven-year-old emperor Maharaja Duleep Singh.
As on 10pm EST, September 17, Shukla’s petition received 5345 signatures, with the current target being set at 7500 signatures.
Shukla told indica, “As I was writing my post on the Queen’s passing and how she never expressed remorse for colonial exploitation, there was an image of the crown. That triggered an angry response in me – how could a country that wants to be seen as a moral and honorable nation could be so blind to the message Kohinoor in the crown sends. Hence the petition.”
He said it is not King Charles III, but the British government that needs to feel the moral pressure of public opinion.
“No matter where their representatives go, the press should be asking them this question – are you going to return this looted item to India? And when,” Shukla said.
His petition states: “Kohinoor was mined in India and was one of the largest diamonds ever mined. After changing hands among various kings in India for centuries, it found its way to the legendary Ranjit Singh who ruled Punjab.
The British conquered Punjab Kingdom after his death in 1849 and put his five-year-old son, Daleep Singh as the King under the Regency of the British. Later they got this child to “gift” this diamond to the British. They also moved Daleep Singh to England, converted him to Christianity and did not allow him to meet his mother or any other Indian so he won’t be aware of his heritage.
“It is no longer morally defensible for UK to hold on to this loot. The honorable thing to do is to return to where they took it away from – to India. It is good for UK.”
Prakash Bhalerao, general partner, Rainbow Enterprises LP, said he signed the petition. He told indica, “Not only the Koh-i-Noor, but all those treasures – public or private – “taken” by British rulers should be returned.”
If nothing else, Bhalerao says, signing the petition will create awareness and put the UK decisionmakers on their toes. “Just a small step towards the goal.”
He added, “India as a nation has to become an economically and militarily dominant, recognized as a world leader for these treasures to be returned with honor and without petitions and hassles.”
Kanwal Rekhi, veteran venture capitalist and co-founder of Inventus Capital, said he was not aware of the petition. However, he told indica, “Why just the Koh-i-noor? Right from the start they pretended that the Koh-i-noor was gifted by Maharaja Daleep Singh to Queen Victoria. Daleep Singh was only 12 when he is supposed to have done it.”
Shukla, who is determined to carry on the petition, said, “I don’t know if the British government will return it but it will expose the moral hypocrisy of the country. Sustained pressure eventually will force them to do the right thing.”
He added, “Let us get at least a million signatures on this petition. In addition, on January 26, 2023, we should all go to the closest Embassy / Consulate / High Commission of UK wherever we are in the world and present this petition to them – peacefully and honorably. UK wants to be seen as an honorable country that does good in the world. Let us give them this opportunity to come good.”