Home loses Nizam jewels

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By AYSWARIA VENUGOPAL in Delhi
  • Published 25.08.04
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New Delhi, Aug. 25: The Nizam’s famed jewels will find a permanent home at National Museum in Delhi as the Centre has decided against sending these to Hyderabad.

“Having regard to special security needs, a considered view was taken by the government in October 2003 to keep them in one of the galleries of National Museum, New Delhi,” culture minister S. Jaipal Reddy said in Parliament last week.

The decision was announced in reply to a question from Asaduddin Owaisi, an MP from Hyderabad.

“However, the government is now contemplating the possibility of organising exhibition of the jewels in Hyderabad city from time to time,” Reddy added.

The Centre’s decision may not please many in Andhra Pradesh, particularly former chief minister . Chandrababu Naidu who had wanted the treasure housed in Hyderabad.

He had written to the previous NDA government several times, saying the jewellery was part of Hyderabad’s heritage and should ideally be housed in the Gems and Jewellery Park being developed at Banjara Hills in the city. Naidu had also suggested Salar Jung Museum as an alternative site.

The Nizam’s family had offered Chowmohalla Palace as a permanent gallery.

The Gems and Jewellery Park was rejected apparently because it was being developed with Malaysian collaboration. The two other venues were also considered insecure.

Ministry sources said the collection would be housed in a special jewellery gallery being planned in National Museum’s new wing. It is not clear when the wing would be ready but the special gallery would have to conform to international security specifications and have constant surveillance.

The government’s decision could well be a vindication of the late National Museum director-general Laxmi Prasad Sihare’s timely efforts that saved Nizam’s jewels from going the Kohinoor way — overseas.

Armed with a stay order, Sihare had in 1979 spearheaded the government’s move to stop the auction of a part of the collection by its trustees after the Centre staked its claim in 1972.

The jewels that escaped the Afghans, the Mughals and the British were first shifted to Reserve Bank of India’s vaults from a foreign bank where these were being held by the trustees.

The collection was subsequently exhibited for the first time at National Museum for about two months between September and December, 2001.

The rare treasure comprises 173 pieces, including the uncut Jacob Diamond, one of the seven biggest in the world at 184.75 carats.

The others are a seven-strand necklace strung with 150 large and 230 small pearls and a double-diamond pendant; a pair of bracelets full of 270 diamonds; 22 partially uncut and unmounted emeralds of 414.25 carats, and a diamond-studded belt made in France by Oscar Massi Pieres.

Rings, brooches, buttons, bejewelled swords, diamond-studded images of camels, and gold ingots round out the collection.

The public may be pleased with the planned permanent display in the capital. But Owaisi and Purandeswari, a Congress Lok Sabha MP who is also late Andhra Pradesh chief minister .T. Rama Rao’s daughter, are yet to give up the battle to take the jewels back to Hyderabad.

They are camping here to meet Reddy to persuade him to change his decision.