For the descendants of Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Kohinoor diamond holds spiritual value. They seek the participation of members of the British royal family, including King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla Parker, to walk with them on this spiritual journey by donating the Kohinoor diamond to the Jagannath Puri temple as per “the last wish of Maharaja Ranjit Singh”.
Prince Sandeep Singh, an 8th-generation direct descendant of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, says, "I have conveyed to King Charles and Queen Camilla, inviting them to join us on this spiritual journey and get blessed. It will start with the diamond being returned to us and then, we will present it to the deity of at the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri."
Sandeep Singh emphasises that neither the Indian nor British government has any claim over the diamond because it is a matter between the two royal families. "Prime Minister Narender Modi already stated in 2014 and 2015 that Kohinoor was gifted by Maharaja Duleep Singh to the Britishers and they are the rightful owners now, but the reality is that it was never gifted. The Kohinoor diamond is a family property, which was illegally confiscated by one royal family from another royal family in 1849. It is purely a matter between two royal families and no one else is to interfere," Sandeep Singh says.
While India has long demanded the return of the diamond, with the initial request made after Independence in 1947 and reiterated during Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, the UK government maintains that there are no legal grounds for its restitution. Additionally, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan have also laid claim to the diamond.
Prince Dr Jaswinder Singh, the 7th descendant of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, says, "During Maharaja Ranjit Singh's rule, the Kingdom of Punjab was a prosperous secular state. The Maharaja made generous donations to temples and reconstructed mosques and other religious sites. He had pledged the Kohinoor as a donation at the Lord Jagannath temple at Puri, Odisha, as his last wish."
Dr Jaswinder Singh adds that they also request the return of Maharaja Duleep Singh's mortal remains and urge the government to support this second demand among many.
He reiterated that since the diamond rightfully belonged to the Maharaja, who was the emperor of Punjab, it is the moral responsibility of the Punjabi community which include Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Buddhists, and others, to advocate for its return to the family. "We do not intend to acquire the diamond for ourselves. It must be donated to the Lord Jagannath at Puri Odisha, as per Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh's last dying wish," Dr Jaswinder Singh says.
The family expresses their dismay at certain political parties using the issue of the diamond's return as an election agenda. They say, "Political parties cannot exploit it before every election and then remain silent after the polls, only to revive it in the next election and should stop fooling the people of present-day India by playing with their emotions."
Sandeep says before the 2014 elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) repeatedly promised to bring back the Kohinoor. "I wondered how they would accomplish it. After 2014, they started claiming that Maharaja Duleep Singh had gifted the Kohinoor to the Britishers, which we had strongly condemned. Now, in 2023, they are once again making it a political matter and an election issue."
Besides, he says, whenever the Indian government claims they are bringing back the Kohinoor, Afghanistan, Turkey, Iran, and Pakistan also assert their ownership rights. “Britain then claims that it belongs to all of them and hence is a matter of dispute and retains it by saying that no lawful owner is available."
"For others, the diamond may be a materialistic possession, but for us, it holds spiritual significance. It is our spiritual duty to donate it where Maharaja Ranjit Singh intended as stated in his last dying wishes. We seek to fulfil the last wish of our great-great-grandfather Emperor Maharaja Ranjit Singh. If the British royal family accompanies us on this auspicious journey, it will be a spiritual odyssey," Sandeep adds.
While historical records indicate that the Kohinoor diamond was taken by the Mughals in the 16th century and later seized by Persians and Afghans before reaching Sikh Maharajah Ranjit Singh, Sandeep believes the diamond was discovered in the Hirakud mines of the Sambalpur district in Odisha and was then taken to Golkonda which was known for its diamond industry in those times. He says diamonds are still found in that area, which is under the supervision of paramilitary forces due to its rich mineral resource and precious stone mines.
He says that in 1812-1813 when Shuja Shah Durrani – also known as Shah Shujah of Afghanistan – was imprisoned by Atta Mohammad Khan in Kashmir, his wife met Maharaja Ranjit Singh and requested his help in liberating her husband from the prison.
Ranjit Singh’s empire spanned from Kashmir, Khyber Pass, Gilgit Baltistan in the north to Sindh in the South West and from the East River Sutlej to Afghanistan in the West. It was the only state that successfully defeated Afghanistan.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh, according to the family, assured Shah Shujah’s wife of his help and she pledged Kohinoor in lieu of securing the release of her husband. After his release, he was brought to Lahore. In 1814, Shah Shujah gifted Kohinoor to Maharaja Ranjit Singh along with another diamond, Darya-i-noor, as well as the famous Timur Ruby.
However, many historians argue that Shuja was imprisoned along with his son till he part with the diamond.
Sandeep says that in 1858, the East India Company came under the direct control of the Crown through the Government of India Act, making all its territories British India. "The Kohinoor was taken in 1849 by Dalhousie, who served then as the Governor-General of India from 1848 to 1856. Since the East India Company operated under the Crown, this matter becomes the concern of the two Royal families," Sandeep says.
The family bases their claim on the Kohinoor on their Kursinama or Shajra Nasab, a family pedigree. "The government of India then and present-day Indian government recognises us as descendants of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the court of law of this land. The land given to us by our forefather Maharaja Ranjit Singh was returned by the British after the fall of Lahore. In the land records, it was clearly mentioned that ‘NO ONE IS TO INTERFERE’. We paid Rs 60 lakhs for the remaining land. Our family's old estate, Qila Jagatpur, is located eight miles from the walled city of Amritsar. The pedigree clearly establishes us as direct descendants of Maharaja Ranjit Singh from his second wife. Commandant Rattan Singh, my great-grandfather, was born from the womb of Maharaja Ranjit Singh's second wife."