Imperial, Colonial Thieves: The Looting of Wealth, and Plundering of Cultural and Religious Treasures of India (Part 1)


Prof Hoosen Vawda – TRANSCEND Media Service

The Odyssey of Systematic Theft of Wealth and Heritage Artifacts from India by Imperial Britain

The Coronation of H. M, Queen Elizabeth II

“Heavy is the Head that carries the Crown”[1]

26 Feb 2022 – The English word “loot” is defined by the English dictionary as “private property taken from an enemy in war.”[2] The meaning specifies “war”.  The word is directly derived from the Hindi word lūṭ,[3] meaning to steal or plunder.  The word was specifically coined by the citizens of South Asia, as a region, including India, Burma Thailand, and even Afghanistan, as a result of the deceitful occupation and exploitation of India by the British East India Company, siphoning enormous amounts of wealth and resources from the present-day countries under the oppressive British Raj, since the 17th century, until Independence of India, at midnight on 15th August, 1947[4].

This publication summarises the sad and sordid odyssey of the carefully designed and perfectly orchestrated strategies to ensure that the subcontinent of India was not only occupied, subjugated, plundered and oppressed, but there were mechanisms in place to ensure that India supported Britain, financially during the Raj.

In September 1695, Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb[5], or the ‘Grand Mughal’, was irate with rage. He had sent his army into five key ports in India, from which the British traded with India, and had also arrested English East India Company traders in Surat.  The reason for this campaign was justifiable because his magnificent, grandest and most opulent ship had been attacked, captured and ransacked by English pirates. Seven days duration of journey from Surat , on 7th  September 1695, the Ganj-i-Sawai, translated  in English “Exceeding Treasure”, was an armed Ghanjah dhow, a merchant trading ship, which, along with the escort ship Fateh Muhammed, was captured by the man who would lead this heist, Captain Henry Every, who was born in Devon, England, and after a stint in the British Royal Navy and the slave trade, he enlisted as a first mate on the Spanish privateer ship ‘Charles II’, whose task was to sink enemy commerce. After months sitting idle in the Spanish port of Coruña, the crew of his ship mutinied and made Every, the captain. The ship was renamed the ‘Fancy’, and they plundered along the coast of Southern Africa and Madagascar, before landing on the island of Perim in the Red Sea. This decision was not baseless and would prove critical to the heist.[6]

Every year, a Mughal convoy of ships made a journey from Surat, a bustling port city, to Mecca, ferrying Haj pilgrims. This treasure fleet was the most prized in Asia, and Every had his eye on it. To take on the fleet, he joined hands with 5 more pirates. They anchored near Perim, also called Mayyun in Arabic, which is a volcanic island in the Strait of Mandeb at the south entrance into the Red Sea, off the south-west coast of Yemen and belonging to Yemen. , waiting for the flags of the Mughal empire emblazoned on the sails to come into view.  However, the fleet slipped past at night, and when, in the morning, the pirates got to know, they gave chase. The two slowest ships were the Ganj-i-Sawai, and the Fateh Muhammad, its escort. One of the pirate ships had to be burnt just to catch up with the Mughal ones, showing how desperate they were.  Thomas Tew’s Amity tried to engage the Fateh Muhammad but was repulsed, killing Tew and forcing his ship to retreat.  Fateh Muhammad was armed with dozens of cannons, but astoundingly, gave little resistance once the other three ships arrived. Just from the escort alone, Every looted $20 million dollars in today’s currency. Now the pirates’ eyes were fixed on the Ganj-i-Sawai.[7]

State sponsored English pirates attacked a large Indian trading ship, the Ganj-i-Sawai, carrying 500 passengers and crew from Yemen to Surat.   One source reported  number of 900.[8] After murdering a large number of the men and raping the womenfolk over several days, the pirates took off with gold, silver and precious stones with an estimated value of £200,000 to £600,000 ($400 million in modern times). For perspective, the average annual salary in England in 1688 was around £32.

That was the wealth from just one ship in a single day. During the approximately thirteen thousand days of British rule in India, vessels sailed daily for Britain from ports all along India’s coasts. They were laden with incalculable quantities of wealth and other valuables such as icons, statues, scrolls and books looted from the treasuries of Indian kings, businessmen, temples, landlords, schools, colleges, charitable institutions and the common people.

The Teutonic thoroughness of the loot can be assessed from the British sacking of Jhansi[9] in 1858. D.V. Tahmankar writes in his book The Ranee of Jhansi[10] that on the first day the British led by Lord Dalhousie carted away the more valuable property, jewellery, gold, silver and money. By the end of the fourth day, they had taken all the rich clothes, beds, mattresses, sheets, blankets, carpets, hinges and bolts on doors and windows, pots and pans, cereals and lentils, farm animals, chairs, charpoys (string beds), bedsteads and even water wheels and ropes with which the people drew water from the wells. “Not a single useful thing was left with the people.”

Dalhousie[11] was following the lofty precedent set a hundred years earlier by Governor Generals Robert Clive[12] and Warren Hastings[13]. Clive had taken £250,000 as well as a jagir worth £27,000 when he returned home to England. That bounty apparently was not enough and he proceeded to steal a million pounds more by shaking down the prostrate Indian kingdoms, businessmen and the peasantry. At his trial Clive said “that considering the quantum of wealth he had seen in India, he was astounded at his own moderation at not taking more.’

A usual narrative, for centuries which is circulated in Britain is that the colonisation of India was not of any major economic benefit to Britain itself. In fact the official assertion is that the  administration of India, under the British Raj was an enormous financial burden to Britain and the fact that the empire was sustained for nearly two hundred years, officially, and even longer by the indirect administration of India through the intermediary,  the British East India Company.  This “administration” of India, was an enormous gesture of Britain’s benevolence, as custodians of the civilised world, protecting the sub-continent from foreign invasion.[14] This storyline is accepted by up to 50% of  British citizens and they further add that Britain actually did India a great favour, by occupying it and developing it as well as civilizing the citizenry.

However, research by the renowned economist Utsa Patnaik[15], an Indian Marxist economist. published by Columbia University Press, demonstrates how Britain systematically stole $45 trillion from India and lied about it, dispelling the afore mentioned narrative. While the quantitative figure mentioned appears to be an exaggerated amount, Patnaik calculated that Britain drained a total of nearly $45 trillion from India during the period 1765 to 1938, with carefully audited conclusions drawing on the analysis of nearly two centuries of detailed data records on tax and trade, maintained by accountants at the time. The economist challenges orthodox economic histories of Britain’s industrial transition and the relationship between Britain and colonised India, during the oppressive and exploitative British Raj.[16]  As a perspective, $45 trillion is 17 times more than the total annual gross domestic product of the United Kingdom today.

It is also interesting to understand how brilliantly this theft was engineered by Britain, during its occupation of India. The heist was manoeuvered through the trade system. Prior to the colonial period, Britain bought goods like textiles and rice from Indian producers and paid for them with silver, as they did with any other country. In 1765, shortly after the East India Company took control of the subcontinent and established a monopoly over Indian trade. The East India Company began collecting taxes in India, and then cleverly used about a third of those revenues to fund the purchase of Indian goods for British use. Therefore, instead of paying for Indian goods out of the British treasury, the British traders acquired them for free, “buying” from peasants and weavers using money that had just been taken from them, as taxes, in their own land and solely good produced by the efforts and expertise of the Indians.  It was a financial heist on a grand scale. However, most Indians were totally unaware of the financial scam, because the agent who collected the taxes was not the same as the person who transacted to buy their goods. This was an extremely clever ploy by the British administrators.  Using this technique, some of the free goods were consumed in Britain, and the rest were re-exported to other British colonies. The re-export system allowed Britain to finance a flow of imports from Europe, including strategic materials like iron, tar and timber, which were essential to Britain’s industrial revolution. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution depended in large part on this systematic thievery of wealth from India. Furthermore, the British were able to sell the stolen goods from India, to other countries at a greater rate than what they “paid: for these items, pocketing not only 100% of the original value of the goods but also retaining the additional markup.  It was a win-win situation, for the seasoned thieves, exploiting the colony.

Following the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857[17], the British Raj [18]took over the administration of India, directly, in 1858, colonisers added a special new twist to the tax-and-buy system. As the East India Company’s monopoly broke down, Indian producers were allowed to export their goods directly to other countries. But Britain made sure that the payments for those goods nonetheless ended up in London.  This was again manipulated by the British to ensure that anyone who wanted to buy any merchandise from India would do so using special Council Bills.[19]  This was a unique paper currency issued only by the British Crown. Furthermore, it was ensured that the only way to acquire those bills was to physically purchase them from London with gold or silver. Therefore, traders would pay London in gold to obtain the bills, and then use the bills to pay Indian producers. When Indians cashed the bills in at the local colonial office, they were “paid” in rupees out of tax revenues.  This was the money that had just been collected from them. In summary, the Indians were not in fact paid at all,  they were defrauded by this cleverly designed financial strategy.  Most importantly, London hoarded abundant amounts of gold and silver, which should have been acquired, directly by the Indians, in exchange for their exports from India, for which they paid in levied taxes, often exorbitant.

This corrupt system meant that even while India was running an impressive trade surplus with the rest of the world, a surplus that lasted for three decades in the early 20th century, it showed up as a deficit in the national accounts because the real income from India’s exports was appropriated in its entirety by Britain.  Some point to this fictional “deficit” as evidence that India was a liability to Britain.  However, exactly the contrary was true. Britain intercepted enormous quantities of income that rightly belonged to Indian producers. India was the goose that laid the golden egg. Meanwhile, the “deficit” meant that India had no option but to borrow from Britain to finance its imports. Therefore, the entire Indian population was forced into completely unnecessary and viciously eternal cycle of debt to their colonial masters, further cementing and ensuring a sustained British control, with the colony effectively becoming poorer, in the process.

Britain used the amassed defrauded wealth from this fraudulent system, used in India, to fuel the ever-increasing machinery of imperial violence.  This is the financial mechanism used to fund the invasion of China in the 1840s as well as the successful “Opium Wars”[20] and the suppression of the Indian Rebellion in 1857. These funds, were in addition to what the Crown levied directly from Indian taxpayers to pay for its wars. As Patnaik points out, “the cost of all Britain’s wars of conquest outside Indian borders were charged always wholly or mainly to Indian revenues.”[21]

Britain also used this flow of tribute capital from India to finance the expansion of capitalism in Europe and regions of European settlement, like Canada and Australia. Consequently, not only the Industrial Revolution of Britain, but also the industrialisation of much of the Western world was facilitated by extraction from the colonies, mainly India.

Patnaik identifies four distinct economic periods in colonial India from 1765 to 1938, calculates the extraction for each, and then compounds at a modest rate of interest (about 5 percent, which is lower than the market rate) from the middle of each period to the present. Adding it all up, she finds that the total drain amounts to $44.6 trillion. This figure is conservative, she says, and does not include the debts that Britain imposed on India during the Raj. Realistically,  the actual costs of this financial drain cannot be calculated. If India had been able to invest its own tax revenues and foreign exchange earnings in development, as Japan did, history might have turned out differently. India could very well have become an economic powerhouse. Centuries of poverty and suffering could have been prevented.

All of this is a sobering antidote to the rosy narrative promoted by certain powerful voices in Britain. The conservative and highly authoritative historian Niall Ferguson[22] has claimed that British rule helped “develop” India.[23] While he was prime minister, David Cameron[24] asserted that British rule was a net help to India.  This is in concordance with typical British lies and hypocrisy, even evident today in global affairs, as nearly 50% of people in Britain believe that colonialism was beneficial to the colonies.

It is a stark realisation that during the entire 200-year history of British Raj in India, there was almost no increase in per capita income. In fact, during the last half of the 19th century, the golden era of British Raj, income in India contracted by half. The average life expectancy of Indians dropped by a fifth from 1870 to 1920. Tens of millions died needlessly of policy-induced famine, causing an ethnic genocide, which Britain is solely guilty of today.

It can now be concluded that Britain did not develop India. On the contrary, as Patnaik’s work makes clear; India developed Britain.  Any justice system would highlight that this entire deception and oppression of India, requires Britain to unconditionally and unreservedly to formally apologise for the transgression in the past, being a civilized society.  Perhaps, even financial reparations, although there are not enough funds in all of Britain to cover the sums that Patnaik identifies. In the meantime, the global community needs to acknowledge that Britain retained control of India not out of benevolence but for the sole purpose of plunder and that Britain’s industrial rise did not materialise from the steam engines of industrial revolution and strong financial institutions, as the history narrated by the victorious states, but depended entirely on crafted theft from other lands and other peoples, not only of financial wealth  but also cultural heritage and religious artefacts.[25]

The British East India House in Leadenhall Street, London.
“The Headquarters of the First Corporate Thieves”

Drawing by Thomas Hosmer Shepherd, circa 1817.[26]

The coronation of Elizabeth II took place on 2 Jun 1953 at Westminster Abbey in London.[27] Elizabeth II acceded to the throne at the age of 25 upon the death of her father, George VI, on 06th  February 1952, being proclaimed queen by her privy and executive councils shortly afterwards. The coronation was held more than one year later because of the tradition of allowing an appropriate length of time to pass after a monarch dies before holding such festivals. It also gave the planning committees adequate time to prepare for the ceremony.[28] During the service, Elizabeth took an oath, was anointed with holy oil, was invested with robes and regalia, and was crowned queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon, presently Sri Lanka[29]

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (4 August 1900 – 30 March 2002) was Queen consort of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth from 11 December 1936 to 6 February 1952 as the wife of King George VI. She was the last Empress consort of India from her husband’s accession as King-Emperor in 1936 until the British Raj was dissolved in August 1947. After her husband died, she was known as Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, to avoid confusion with her daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.[30]

The Crown of Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother, also known as The Queen Mother’s Crown, is the crown made for Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI, to wear at their coronation in 1937 and State Openings of Parliament during her husband’s reign. The crown was made by Garrard & Co., the Crown Jeweller at the time, and is modelled partly on the design of the Crown of Queen Mary, though it differs by having four half-arches instead of eight. As with Queen Mary’s Crown, its arches are detachable at the crosses pattée, allowing it to be worn as a circlet or open crown. It is the only crown for a British king or queen to be made of platinum.[31]

The crown is decorated with about 2,800 diamonds, most notably the 105-carat (21.0 g) Koh-I-Noor in the middle of the front cross, which was acquired by the East India Company after the Anglo-Sikh Wars and presented to Queen Victoria in 1851,[32]  This is a highly contested euphemism that the Koh-I-Noor was presented, by a 5-year-old Sikh heir to the British. However, according to Anita Anand [33] it was deceptively acquired by the British East India Company at the time. The journalist together with William Dalrymple has published a book on the Koh-I-Noor[34], detailing the entire saga of this deception, as well as the origins of the diamond, the size of a small egg of a hen in the Hindu scriptures, as well its sordid history of acquisition, by rulers, Mughals, Sultans, Maharajas, soldiers, politicians, cultural thieves and presently it lies in the hands of the British royal family and is part of the Crown Jewels of Queen Elizabeth 11 of England.  It has been the subject of conquest and intrigue for centuries, passing through the hands of Mughal princes, Iranian warriors, Afghan rulers and Punjabi Maharajas.[35] The Garuda Purana[36], remarks Dalrymple dryly,  “is possibly the only known text that imagines thieves flying away from diamonds.”[37] According to Hindu legend the Koh-I-Noor, is 5000 years old and is the Syamantaka jewel that is referred to in Sanskrit writings. This jewel is supposed to have originally belonged to the Sun God,  Surya, who wore it around his neck and from which emanated its blissful radiance. It is narrated that any land that possessed it would never encounter any calamities in the form of natural disasters and would always be full of prosperity and plenitude.[38] Current name of the diamond, Koh-I-Noor is in Persian and means `Mountain of Light`. Up until 1304, the diamond was in the possession of the Rajas of Malwa but was not called by its current name.

The document that verifies the existence of Koh-I-Noor, dates back to 1526, when it came into the possession of the Indian conqueror, Babur[39], mentioning the previous ownership by the Raja of Gwalior in the 13th century.

The diamond continuously changed hands between Indian and Persian rulers as they fought bitter battles throughout history. The diamond ended up being mounted on the Mughal throne of India, the Peacock Throne. It is said that when Shah Jahan , the ruler who commanded the building of this throne and the Taj Mahal, was imprisoned by his son, that he could only ever see the Taj Mahal again through the reflection of this diamond.

The diamond once again was lost to India when it was stolen by Nadir Shah and made its way to Persia in 1739, again making its way back to Punjab in 1813 when Shuja Shah Durrani, the deposed ruler of Afghanistan, took it to India and made a deal to surrender the diamond in exchange for help in winning back the Afghan throne.

Attempting to sum up its worth, the 18th  Century Afghan Queen Wufa Begum said: “If a strong man were to throw four stones, one north, one south, one east, one west, and a fifth stone up into the air, and if the space between them were to be filled with gold, all would not equal the value of the Koh-I-Noor.”[40]

The diamond was 186 carats before the British acquired it by conquering Punjab when it was eventually handed to the British in 1849 under the terms of a punitive treaty following the Anglo-Sikh war. It was signed by the reportedly 5 or 10-year-old Sikh ruler after his mother was thrown in jail.[41]  The stone was given to Queen Victoria by the then British Colonial Governor-General of India. Prince Albert carefully searched for a diamond cutter and gave the mission to a certain Mr. Cantor in Netherlands, who began the difficult task of cutting it which took 38 days to accomplish. Cut into an oval shape, the diamond lost its lustre and was reduced to its current form and weight of 108.93 carats. Apparently, Prince Albert was not too happy with the end results.

However, the diamond’s traditional rose cut did not impress visitors to the Great Exhibition in 1851 and so it was re-cut as an oval brilliant, gaining sparkle but losing about 40% of its weight in the process. The Koh-I-Noor was mounted on the Royal Crown along with over 2000 other diamonds.

The Koh-I-Noor as the centre piece of the Royal Crown

There is apparently a curse on the diamond that affects all men who wear it but women are immune. The Crown was used by Queen Victoria, Queen Alexandra, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth and is only worn by the female members of the British Royal Family as per Queen Victoria`s last will and testament.

Both India and Pakistan each claim the diamond be handed back to them by the British. However, as of February 21, 2013 British Prime Minister, David Cameron, refused to hand it over, saying `I certainly don`t believe in “returnism”, as it were. I don’t think that’s sensible`.[42] The Crown is currently on display at the Tower of London and it looks like it is going to remain there indefinitely.  Some Indian and Pakistani visitors to the Tower of London hiss as they pass it, as they want it returned to the subcontinent, though to which country, remains unclear.[43]

In addition, a 17-carat (3.4 g) Turkish diamond given to Queen Victoria in 1856 by Abdülmecid I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire[44], as a gesture of thanks for British support in the Crimean War.[45] The Koh-I-Noor became a part of the Crown Jewels when it was left to the Crown upon Victoria’s death in 1901. It had been successively mounted in the crowns of Queen Alexandra and Queen Mary before it was transferred to The Queen Mother’s Crown.

After the death of the king, Queen Elizabeth, known thereafter as the Queen Mother, did not wear the full crown, but wore it minus the arches as a circlet at the coronation of her daughter, Elizabeth II, in 1953.[46]  It was placed on top of the Queen Mother’s coffin for her lying-in-state and funeral in 2002.[47]

The Koh-I-Noor in the Queen Mother’s Crown placed on the coffin

In a 2018 BBC documentary, Queen Elizabeth II made a statement that not only is the crown very difficult to balance, but it could possibly ‘break her neck’ if she looked down. While discussing the 65th anniversary of her coronation, the head of the Royal family made this very obvious revelation, since the crown is set with 2,868 diamonds, 11 sapphires, 11 emeralds and 269 pearls[48].In response the public comment, especially from people of Indian origins, was to return the stolen jewels to their rightful owners, indeed to enlighten the heavy burden, both literally and figuratively.

The Indian government says it is still seeking to reclaim the Koh-I-Noor diamond from Britain, despite telling India’s Supreme Court otherwise. Together with Bollywood personalities and businessmen, India plans to sue the Queen for the return of the diamond back to India, as a matter of reparation of the Koh-I-Noor Diamond, estimated to currently worth a 100 million British pounds. Ownership of the priceless gem is an emotional issue for many Indians, who are aware that it was acquired by the British through deceptive means.

India’s solicitor-general had told the court that it was “neither stolen nor forcibly taken”. Ranjit Kumar,[49] who was representing India’s government in the hearing, had said the 105-carat diamond had been “gifted” to the East India company by the former rulers of Punjab in 1849.   Maharajah Ranjit Singh, who once wore the uncut Koh-i-Noor on his bicep, died in 1839. Almost a decade later, the Koh-i-Noor was taken by the British, by force, from a frightened little boy, his son, Duleep Singh. Therefore, the diamond came to Britain due to dubious legality and very clear immorality.  Although all was lost three years before, when the British were invited into the Citadel. Despite signing treaties of friendship with Ranjit Singh, after his death the British began garrisoning troops around the border.

These were deemed acts of naked aggression by the Sikhs and provoked war. Having surreptitiously cut deals with leading members of his court, the British managed to persuade them to betray their King and weaken his army, leading to defeat in the first Anglo-Sikh War. Still faced with a formidable force in the Sikh Kingdom, the British insisted that they wished to leave the Maharajah on the throne, thus taming any potential “native” uprising. There were stringent conditions however. The British were to be given “full authority to direct and control all matters in every Department of the State. Inveigling their way into the Lahore Durbar in this way, they separated Duleep Singh from his mother, the Regent, dragging her screaming to a tower and contrived a second Anglo-Sikh war. What was left was a thoroughly weakened realm. Alone and terrified, this small child was surrounded by grown British men, and told to sign away his future. Later in life Duleep Singh would attempt to take legal action against the British over their conduct. There was also a day when Duleep Singh , exiled in England, was given permission to see and feel the Koh-I-Noor diamond in his hand by Queen Victoria, according to Anita Anand in her book. However, living in exile in England by this time, he was thwarted at every turn and eventually died a broke and broken man.[50]

However,  a statement by India’s ministry of culture said the government “further reiterates its resolve to make all possible efforts to bring back the Koh-I-Noor diamond in an amicable manner”.[51] Mr Kumar’s comments, which elicited surprise in India, did not represent the views of the government, the statement said. The official submission to the court has yet to be made, it added. Mr Kumar has since resigned as the Solicitor General.[52] India’s culture ministry appears to have misread the popular mood – the solicitor general’s comments sparked a full-scale political row, forcing the government to backpedal.

The main opposition Congress party said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government must make all efforts to bring the diamond back since “it’s connected to our emotions”.

Mr Modi’s allies in Punjab state, the Shiromani Akali Dal, joined the criticism, describing the government stand as “wrong”. One party MP said the Punjab government would even be willing to join the court case seeking its return. Rattled by the criticism, the prime minister’s office intervened, and the culture ministry issued a clarification.

The Koh-I-Noor is undoubtedly an emotional issue in India where many believe that in 1849, the reportedly 10-year-old ruler of Punjab was forced to give it to the British and that it should be returned to India, its rightful owner.  The case is being heard by the Supreme Court in Delhi after an Indian NGO filed a petition asking the court to direct the Indian government to bring back the diamond.  The court is still considering the issue, and said it did not want to dismiss the petition as it could “stand in the way” of future attempts to bring back items that once belonged to India.  Tushar Gandhi, the great-grandson of independence leader Mahatma Gandhi, said in 2009 that it should be returned as “atonement for the colonial past”.

However, Britain has consistently refused to part with the gem – most recently, Prime Minister David Cameron said in 2013 he did not think returning it was “sensible”.

The Indian media, however, is divided over the issue with some papers urging the government to do whatever is necessary to secure the return of the diamond, while others question whether it should be such a high priority.

The Asian Age hails the government’s “U-turn” over the issue, adding that its earlier stance indicated that it had “lost sight of the fact that the return of the Koh-I-Noor is linked in people’s minds to national pride”. But the Economic Times asks if “an inanimate hunk of colourless carbon reposing in a crown in the Tower of London” is really worth so much effort, or if the government should be focusing its attention on more pressing issues.[53]

There have been previous attempts to get the diamond back but they have all stalled. I suspect none of the previous petitioners really expected to get the gem out of the Tower of London.

India is not the only nation in the game. Earlier, a British-trained barrister, Javed Iqbal Jaffry, successfully lodged a petition with a Pakistani court. In Mr Jaffry’s words: “Grabbing and snatching [the Koh-i-Noor] was a private, illegal act which is justified by no law or ethics”.

Though the Indians want the stone in Delhi, he insists its true home is Lahore, the former capital of Duleep Singh’s empire. I am currently writing a history of the Koh-I-Noor with the splendid historian William Dalrymple, and we have both been up to our elbows in various dusty archives both here and in India.  Had the diamond truly been a gift, the Delhi Gazette, a British newspaper, would hardly have printed in May 1848: “This famous diamond, the largest and most precious in the world. forfeited by the treachery of the sovereign at Lahore, and now under the security of British bayonets at the fortress of Goindghur, it is hoped ere long, as one of the splendid trophies of our military valour, be brought to England in attention of the glory of our arms in India”.   He further added that I don’t know about you, but I don’t know of many “gifts” that are handed over at the point of a bayonet.[54]

India celebrated its 74th year of independence. This freedom was achieved after 200 years of slavery. Britain looted India in the two centuries. An economic study tried to estimate how much British took out of India, it ended up at a number of $45 trillion in today’s value. British also stole other valuable, historical and religious artefacts  from India.[55] Here are some of them:

When Tipu Sultan, a ruler of Mysore, also known as Tiger of Mysore lost a battle to the British in 1799,[56] the colonists stole his sword and ring from his body. The sword was returned to India, but in 2014 the ring was auctioned by the British for £145,000. The 41.2g ring was sold to an undisclosed bidder for almost 10 times its estimated price at the auction in central London, according to Christie’s website. The jeweled ring is inscribed with the name of Hindu God Ram in raised Devanagari inscribed on it.

The Ring of Tipu Sultan and the White Wine Cup of Emperor Shah Jahan

A white jade wine cup belongs to Shah Jahan, the emperor of the Mughal Empire, who made Taj Mahal in honor of his beloved queen. The flower below the jar is a lotus and leaves are acanthus and an animal with a goat and a horn and beard on the handle. In the 19th century a beautiful wine jar was stolen by Colonel Charles Seton Guthrie and sent to Britain. Since 1962 it’s placed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The Bottom Line is that the imperial Britain came, they saw, they conquered and they left with a loot of cultural, religious and material legacy in its nearly 200 years of official occupation of India.  It is also interesting to note that when the British defeated the Muslim, Mughal rulers, there was relief and jubilation amongst the Hindus and Sikhs of India.  These indigenous people looked upon the British as learned and technologically advanced, white men, who rule would benefit India.  Yet the British turned out to be crafty thieves, plunderers and slaughterers of any form of resistance to their rule in the colonies the invaded and deceitfully occupied in the course of their imperial expansionism in the 17th and 18th centuries.  This was the operational ethos of other European nations such as the Portuguese, Dutch and Spanish, as well as the Germans. The legacy left by these British raiders has had a profound effect not only at the time, but also presently, when their parting gift to India was the partition of the country, based on religions, eternally creating divisions between the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims, as well as the Christians.

The highly respected Congress member of Parliament and former junior external affairs Minister Shashi Tharoor most eloquently summarised the story  of the British rape of India in his 2017 book, The Inglorious Empire: What the British Did to India.[57]

“Inglorious Empire”
By Former Minster, Honourable Shashi Tharoori In the Congress Party of India

The British, therefore sowed the primary seed of sectarian violence, as they did in Ireland and other colonies, they invaded.  This underlying philosophy of divide and rule, mastered by the British, created mortal enemies amongst friends and neighbours, which is used by seasoned politicians to their delightful gain, even today.

Humanity needs to appreciate this cunning strategy and ensure that we all live peacefully, in a cohesive and productive manner, besides one another and not be manipulated by the legacy of colonial oppressors and masters, which even exists in the present-day context, generating intense conflict in the communities.




























[27]  “1953: Queen Elizabeth takes coronation oath”. BBC. 2 June 1953.

[28]  “60 Fascinating Facts About The Queen’s Coronation”. Royal Central. 1 June 2013.


[30] “No. 55932”. The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 August 2000. p. 8617. “No. 56653”. The London Gazette (Supplement). 5 August 2002. p. 1. “No. 56969”. The London Gazette. 16 June 2003. p. 7439

[31] Kenneth J. Mears (1988). The Tower of London: 900 Years of English History. Phaidon. p. 152. ISBN 978-0-7148-2527-4.

[32] Edge, Simon (30 July 2010). “The Crown Jewels: The Queen’s cursed diamond”. The Sunday Express. Retrieved 15 February 2015.

“Visiting the Crown Jewels”. Historic Royal Palaces. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 13 January 2016.













[45] Leslie Field (1997). Queen’s Jewels. Harry N. Abrams. ISBN 978-0-8109-8172-0.

[46] Brian Barker (1979). The Symbols of Sovereignty. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 136. ISBN 978-0-8476-6192-3.

[47] “Priceless gem in Queen Mother’s crown”. BBC News. 4 April 2002. Retrieved 5 January 2016.












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Professor G. Hoosen M. Vawda (Bsc; MBChB; PhD.Wits) is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment.
Director: Glastonbury Medical Research Centre; Community Health and Indigent Programme Services; Body Donor Foundation SA.

Principal Investigator: Multinational Clinical Trials
Consultant: Medical and General Research Ethics; Internal Medicine and Clinical Psychiatry:UKZN, Nelson R. Mandela School of Medicine
Executive Member: Inter Religious Council KZN SA
Public Liaison: Medical Misadventures
Activism: Justice for All

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