Rampur (Uttar Pradesh) March 8 (IANS) The much-talked about strong room of the Khasbagh Palace in Rampur was finally opened on Saturday in a seventh attempt, only to reveal empty coffers.
All that it had were two large empty lockers — eight feet high and four feet wide — and three small lockers, four feet high and three feet wide, all of which were bereft of anything precious.
They were found to be broken. Gas-cutters had been used. There were 11 trunks. These too were empty.
The opening of the strong room soon led to blame game among kin of the Rampur Nawab.
One of them, Nawab Kazim Ali Khan, claimed that his aunt who last had the keys of the room till her death in 1993 had ‘replaced the items from there before her demise.’
Others in the family alleged that the room was emptied in a robbery in 1980.
Court-appointed commissioner Saurabh Saxena said, “We were excited when we finally made it into the dark strong-room, but it turned out to be empty. This is a huge disappointment. All the lockers built by Chubb company and trunks had nothing in them. There is a small opening which was drilled by thieves who had entered it in 1980 from the roof.”
The room was built in 1930s by Nawab Raza Ali Khan who had acceded to India in 1949 and was survived by three wives, three sons and six daughters.
After his death in 1966, the government recognized the eldest of his three sons – Nawab Murtaza Ali Khan – as the sole inheritor as per the customary law. But this was challenged by his siblings in a 47-year-long legal battle.
In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that the property would be divided among all family members, according to Muslim law.
Apart from Khasbagh Palace which is spread across 450-acre, other properties to be divided among 18 claimants are the 200-acre Benazir Bagh Palace, Sarhari Kunda, Shahbad Bagh Palace and a private railway station — all in Rampur.
Kazim Ali Khan, whose father Nawab Zulfiquar Ali Khan was the second son of Nawab Raza Ali Khan, said, “The strong-room used to have Basra pearls, trays filled with diamonds, emeralds, sapphires and rubies. It had a crown, carpets with stone-work, heirlooms and sword scabbards. However, we just found empty boxes of crown and necklace. Lockers in which jewelries were kept were blank and all shelves were empty.”
Kazim is a former five-time MLA while his mother Begum Noor Bano is former Congress MP.
Kazim Ali Khan said, “The key to the strong-room was with my aunt Begum Aftab Zamini, wife of Murtaza, till 1993 and we suspect that she shifted the items before her death. The missing jewels should be recovered from them and distributed among all the inheritors.”
Meanwhile, Shehzadi Naghat Abdi, daughter of Murtaza, termed the allegations as ‘disgusting’ and said, “We knew that nothing was left in the strong-room as thieves stole all valuables kept here. It was one of the biggest thefts of that time. The other party is in politics and they are making allegations to seek publicity.”
The family members are now planning to start the process of getting the valuables kept in the police treasury (malkhana) for decades.
After the theft in 1980, police had arrested a few accused and recovered gold plates and few other valuables which were kept in the treasury.