Is Surat Built on ‘Smuggled Diamonds’ from Marange?

Honorable Vice President of Zimbabwe Ms. Joice Mujuru made a statement recently which has upset the political as well diamond industry circles here in India. Mujuru reportedly said at an annual church gathering of the St. John Apostolic Church of the Whole World that India had “built a whole town” (Surat) from smuggled Marange diamonds, as published in report of

Political circles here in India argue that the claim that India started a town afresh with Zimbabwean diamonds is quite serious. The contention is unacceptable and unbelievable. “For a senior person like Madam Mujuru to be making such allegations, it’s very unfortunate and quite alarming. You can’t have a junior official even making that kind of allegation,” they feel.

SuratThe existence of Surat city dates back to the years of Mahabharat (the Great Indian Epic) i.e. about year 3,000 B.C. It has been mentioned in the Epic that Lord Krishna stopped with his cows on his transition from Mathura to Dwarka city. Persian and Arab writers did not speak about Surat till after 12th century. As Abbe Reynal puts it, “In the beginning of 13th century, Surat was nothing more than a mean hamlet.” Learned Brahmins mention Surat as Suryapur during 15th and 16th century when Surat was already a city of great trade. Modern Surat is supposed to be built on the site of old Hindu town of Suryapur.

So the history has it that the existence of Surat is as old as 3000 B.C. and the small hamlet had already flourished and prospered as a trading centre during 15th century. Wikipedia says, “In 1512 and again in 1530 Surat was ravaged by the Portuguese Empire. In 1513, the Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa described Surat as an important seaport, frequented by many ships from Malabar and various parts of the world. By 1520, the name of the city was Surat.”

While history (if at all one can call it a history) of Marange diamonds hardly stretches as back as 2006. So no one in the world can accept Madam Mujuru’s contention that the whole Surat town was built with the help of smuggled diamonds from Marange.

Former President of Surat based trade organization The Southern Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SGCCI) and Joint Secretary of Surat Jewellery Park Mr. Pravin Nanavati says, “Statement from Joice Mujuru who is holding such a high office like Vice President of Zimbabwe is quite irresponsible and objectionable. The statement can be construed as deliberately misguiding the whole world and entire diamond community about the prosperity of Surat city which enjoys an undisputed status of global diamond manufacturing hub.”

Mr. Nanavati, who has been in diamond and jewellery business in Surat for more than three decades says, “Surat has been built up by its own laborious and genius citizens on the basis of their hard work for many centuries now. It does not owe its prosperity to any foreign factor. No one has got any right to make statements without properly studying history and facts.”

According to a report published in All Africa, “Joice Mujuru clearly referred (made allegations against) the city of Surat, considered to be the global diamond manufacturing hub. An anonymous Harare official also expressed his concerns over Mujuru’s statements, worrying that it might complicate trade relations between Zimbabwe and India.”

Posted by Suresh Chotai