How India has responded to Rishi Sunak as PM: ‘Just return the Kohinoor’

This is second time in just two months that Indian social media users have trended #Kohinoor

Shweta Sharma
Tuesday 25 October 2022 10:10 BST
Queen Elizabeth's Imperial State Crown and Sovereign Orb removed from coffin

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Rishi Sunak’s ascent to No 10 has left several people in India ecstatic at having the first Indian-origin prime minister lead the country’s former coloniser – but has also renewed calls yet again for the return of the Kohinoor diamond.

Mr Sunak, who has called himself a “proud Hindu”, has set several historic firsts with his elevation as British prime minister. He holds the distinction of not just becoming the first Hindu and Asian heritage leader, but is also set to become the country’s youngest prime minister in more than 200 years.

Mr Sunak’s appointment as prime minister has left several political pundits and people in India thrilled, with news channels having broadcast rolling coverage of the race to No 10.

But even as India’s media and commentators celebrate Mr Sunak’s elevation as that of an “Indian son” rising “over the Empire”, hundreds of Indians have also been tempted to once again demand the return of the Kohinoor (also spelt as Koh-i-Noor) diamond to the country.

This is the second time in the span of just two months that Indian social media users have trended Kohinoor as a hashtag.

The demand was earlier made by thousands after the death of Queen Elizabeth II on 8 September.

“Now just return the Kohinoor and not all but some will be forgiven. Historic moment indeed,” tweeted award-winning Indian journalist Barkha Dutt.

“History comes full circle. First Kamala Harris, Now Rishi Sunak Hindu PM. USA and United Kingdom somehow accepting the Hinduism and Bhagvat Gita. May Be [bring] Kohinoor Back,” said Prachi Sadhvi, a Hindu political activist.

Journalist Marx Tejaswi tweeted saying he hoped Mr Sunak “will bring back #Kohinoor diamond to India during his next visit”.

“Let’s agree to buy a pint for the British journalist who is the first to ask PM [Rishi Sunak] about the [Kohinoor] diamond,” wrote Sunjeev Bery, executive director of advocacy group Freeedom Forward.

Several social media users also shared memes, with one of them caricaturing the melodramatic Bollywood hit Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, showing Mr Sunak fresh off a helicopter and carrying a briefcase and India’s PM Narendra Modi welcoming him.

Demands for the Kohinoor have cropped up again as the diamond remains at the centre of political and legal controversy in India amid disputes over its ownership, with claims made from not just India but Pakistan and Afghanistan as well.

The diamond is set in the platinum crown which was made for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, the wife of King George VI, in the 1930s. It was placed on the Queen Mother’s coffin during her 2002 funeral and has since sat on public display in the Tower of London.

Mr Modi had earlier congratulated Mr Sunak and said he will work closely with him over bilateral relations between the two countries.

“As you become UK PM, I look forward to working closely together on global issues, and implementing Roadmap 2030,” Mr Modi tweeted.

Mr Sunak, however, does not have relatives living in India, unlike US vice president Kamala Harris. The former British chancellor was born and brought up in Southampton to parents of Punjabi descent from undivided India.

His parents, father Yashvir Sunak and mother Usha Sunak, ran a pharmacy in South coast city after migrating to the UK from East Africa in the 1960s.

Mr Sunak himself has stopped short of calling himself Indian, but does not shy away from embracing his faith as he was photographed lighting candles outside No 11 to mark the biggest Hindu festival Diwali.

His closest connection to India is through his wife, Akshata Murthy, the daughter of Indian billionaire Narayana Murthy, the chairman of IT giant Infosys, who is also known as “the Steve Jobs of India”.

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