Nizam's jewels

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The jewels await a museum

Sudipta Sengupta, Nizam legacy locked in Reserve Bank's vault, Hyd wants the glitter back home, April 10, 2017: The Times of India

While nostalgia haunts Hyderabad on the last Nizam's legacy , residents have been allowed only two glimpses of the royal treasure trove: in 2001 and in 2006 when the jewels were exhibited at Salar Jung Museum for brief periods. Both times, the event drew lakhs of visitors before treasure was sent back to RBI vaults.

Great grandson of the last Nizam, Himayath Ali Mirza, said: “We will seek an audience with Telangana chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao to reiterate our demand.Hyderabad must have its own museum to display the Nizam's jewellery .“ His mother Fatima Fouzia and maternal uncle, Shahmat Jah, couldn't agree more. In fact, together they are even willing to knock on Supreme Court's doors to facilitate return of jewellery to Hyderabad.

Even as one section of society in Hyderabad is apprehensive about the family's plans, citing infighting as a reason for their concern, Nizam's descendants claim they are united on the issue. The family apart, a many historians and city old-timers too make a similar appeal. “Let it still be Government of India's property , but display it in Hyderabad where it belongs,“ said a city historian.

“If they (jewels) went on permanent display , these would attract many thousands of visitors from India and abroad. They are unique, a national treasure that shouldn't be locked away in a bank vault. To do so is an aberration that wouldn't be tolerated in most countries,“ said John Zubrzycki, author of The Last Nizam. Referring to Hyderabad as the “natural home“ of the jewels, he said it's “high time“ they were returned.

While some hoped this shift would be made possible when the TRS government assumed office ­ given KCR's respect for the Nizam ­ the three-year-old government has made no such move. “We thought KCR would at least raise this issue with the Centre, but that of course hasn't been the case. Let us see if he breaks his silence in future,“ said a city heritage expert.

“While Hyderabad is far more impressive than Rajasthan, the city draws fewer tourists because much of its history was destroyed within first 50 years after the end of Nizam's rule. Apart from Chowmahalla and Falaknuma, they haven't done anything to enhance its appeal,“ said William Dalrymple, writer and historian. For him too, Hyderabad is the “obvious choice“ for housing the Nizam's jewels.

Stolen items

Theft in 2018

Srinath Vudali, Nizam’s gold tiffin box, teacup stolen from museum in Hyderabad, September 4, 2018: The Times of India

The diamond-studded gold tiffin box — a gift received by Mir Osman Ali, Nizam VII, in 1937
From: Srinath Vudali, Nizam’s gold tiffin box, teacup stolen from museum in Hyderabad, September 4, 2018: The Times of India
Weight of stolen antiques from Nizam's jewels
From: Srinath Vudali, September 12, 2018: The Times of India
Commissioner Anjani Kumar shows the three-tier golden tiffin box in Hyderabad
From: Srinath Vudali, September 12, 2018: The Times of India

In a daring heist hours after September 2, 2018, midnight, burglars slipped into the Nizam’s Museum at Purani Haveli through a ventilator and decamped with an extravagantly expensive diamond-studded gold tiffin box and a gold teacup used by the last Nizam of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan, Asaf Jah VII.

Hyderabad police formed 10 teams to nab the perpetrators of the seamlessly executed crime. The antiques could fetch up to Rs 50 crore at international auction. The three-tiered gold tiffin box weighs 2kg and is studded with diamonds and rubies.

Police said they received an alert from museum authorities about missing valuables from the display cupboard. A team sealed the premises to prevent erosion of evidence.

An examination of the crime scene revealed a burglar entered the room through the wooden ventilator and used a rope to scale the wall. That the thieves were well-versed with the layout of the room can be gauged from the fact that they twisted the CCTV camera just beneath the ventilator to avoid being captured in footage.

After climbing down 20 feet to touch the floor, the burglars broke open the frame of the cupboard and stole the antiques. They exited via the same route.

Around 9am when the museum was opened, employees found the valuables missing and raised the alarm.

Hyderabad police commissioner Anjani Kumar and other senior officers visited the museum on Monday evening and took stock of the investigation. Police scanned CCTV footage, which showed a man entering through the ventilator, but his face was blurred. Police suspect that it was an inside job, maybe of a man earlier employed by the museum.

“After registering a case, a dog squad and clues team were pressed into service. Already 10 teams are on the lookout for the accused. We are told the missing articles belong to VII Nizam,’’ said assistant commissioner of police (Mirchowk division) B Anand.

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