BHUBANESWAR: The Congress in Odisha today attacked the Centre over its stand on Kohinoor, saying it would launch a campaign so that the diamond, which "rightfully" belongs to Lord Jagannath Temple at Puri, can be brought back to India and offered it to the 12th century shrine.
"It is well known that during his last days Maharaja Ranjit Singh of Punjab had willed Kohinoor diamond to Lord Jagannath temple in Puri," Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee President (OPCC) Prasad Harichandan said.
This wish of Maharaja Ranjit Singh is known by a letter sent by the political agent and commissioner to Peshawar to the officiating secretary of the government of India in July, 1839, Harichandan said.
Stating that the communique has been preserved at the National Archives in New Delhi, the OPCC Chief said it shows that the Kohinoor diamond legitimately belongs to the Lord Jagannath temple in Puri.
Maintaining that efforts had been made from time to time to bring back the now 108.93 carat diamond, Harichandan said the last wish of a person should be honoured.
He said it was not appropriate on the part of the union government to tell the Supreme Court that Kohinoor was neither "forcibly taken" nor "stolen" by the British rulers.
The Solicitor General on April 19 told the Supreme Court: "Kohinoor cannot be said to have been forcibly taken or stolen as it was given by the successors of Maharaja Ranjit Singh to East India Company in 1849 as compensation for helping them in the Sikh wars."
However, the next day the Centre made a U-turn and said it will make all efforts to bring back the diamond.
Harichandran said a post card campaign would be launched through which different sections of the society would write to the President and the Prime Minister stressing the need to work for bringing the diamond back.
As the matter is pending in the Supreme Court, Harichandan said Odisha Government as well as Sri Jagannath Temple Administration should become intervenor in the case to ensure that the king's last wish is fulfilled.
Asking all political parties to join hands for the purpose, the Congress leader said, "We want the Odisha Assembly to pass a unanimous resolution to step up the demand to get back the diamond to India."
Quoting historians, the OPCC president said the British had forced Ranjit Singh's successors Duleep Singh, then a minor, to part with Kohinoor in Lahore in 1849 and it was not given to East India Company as compensation for helping them in Sikh wars.