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The Maharaja Duleep Singh Museum is finally getting visitors, thanks to the controversy over the Kohinoor diamond.
The museum, which was getting only 25 visitors a day on a usual weekday, was surprised to see 70 visitors stream last Tuesday, a day after the Centre told the Supreme Court that the diamond was gifted to the British, said Parminder Singh Jatpuri, general secretary, Maharaja Duleep Singh Memorial trust.
A replica of the diamond has been displayed at the Punjab government-run museum, which was inaugurated last May, but struggled to increase its footfall, and did not have money at one point even to pay its staff.
“Now the moment visitors enter the museum, the first thing they want to know is the Kohinoor story,” said Manpreet, a guide at the museum.
Duleep Singh, who succeeded his father Maharaja Ranjit Singh, and signed the surrender Treaty of Lahore with the East Indian Company, wore the diamond last on his 11th birthday, says the board displayed in the museum. A brief history of Kohinoor has also been mentioned on yet another board near the replica.
Jatpuri said following queries from visitors, he had written to department of cultural affairs proposing the display of a detailed history of Kohinoor.
Ruknuddin Mirza, Chief Architect, INTACH, who restored Bassian Kothi, where Duleep Singh was held by the British after the East Indian Company annexed Punjab, said the replica was made from semi- precious stones.
“Everything is the same except for the purity of the diamond.,” said Mirza.
Comments in the visitors’ book are all about the Kohinoor, with most demanding the diamond, which is now part of the British monarch’s crown, be returned and displayed at Bassian Kothi. “Kohinoor must be brought back to India, it belongs to us,” are the standard lines of visitors Surjit Dhillon, Inderjit Sidhu, Ravi Parabhjot, Varinder Kumar and few others. Dr Seema Rajan and Dr Kiran from Phagwara also wrote that government must make serious efforts to reclaim the Kohinoor diamond.
Jagpreet Singh, yet another visitor, said, “Kohinoor must be reclaimed by India. It was not gifted, but taken forcibly.”
Last Saturday, students and teachers from Anand Ishar School Chhapar visited the museum.
“Over 400 of our students had visited the museum in the past. But following the Kohinoor controversy, kids from 6th onwards started asking questions. So we thought of taking a tour to museum so as to end their all queries,” said Karamjeet Singh, the school’s physical education teacher who was accompanying the students. Social studies teacher Balwinder Kaur Dhillon said,”no matter how many hands were exchanged over Kohinoor which was first found in 13th century but the last owners before it went to the British were the rulers of Punjab.
“So it belongs to Sikhs, the rest is history. It must come back to Punjab and SGPC has so many funds to spend on the security of the diamond. One must take care of its rich heritage,” Dhillon said.
In the visitor’s book is a telling comment from one visitor, Prabhdeep Singh. “We want to see the real Kohinoor and not replica.”