Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Heist in the Purani Haveli (Old residence)

The quintessential building, known as “Purani Haveli”, located at the South east of Afzal Gunj Bridge near Dewan Devdi in Hyderabad city, India, witnessed scenes of a great commotion, on an otherwise quiet Monday morning of 3 September 2018. The imposing structure was once the official residence of the Nizam, the ruler of the erstwhile Hyderabad state in British days. It was constructed for Sikander Jah, Asaf Jah III (1803–1829) by his father Ali Khan Bahadur, Asaf Jah II. The building, a symbol of 18th century European architecture, was used   by Nizam Sikander Jha to live for some time. This is the reason for which this building complex is called Purani Haveli (Old residence). This 19th century structure is a captivating combination of 18th century European facades and traditional Indian courtyards. The building now houses the Nizam's museum, which is dedicated to the last Nizam of Hyderabad state. The place is also being used as a school and as an Industrial training institute.

The reason for the unprecedented commotion could no way be called as trivial, as it was caused by the discovery of a great heist or theft of a few articles made from Gold that are just priceless. According to the Mir Chowk police, thieves managed to gain entry into the hall of Nizam museum on the first floor of this 19th century building through ventilators that are almost 15 feet to 18 feet of height. They also say that thieves gained entry into the museum building after breaking an iron grill on the ground floor. The incident took place between 5 p.m. on Sunday (2 September) and 9 a.m. on Monday (3 September), when the Nizam Museum was closed. The theft was noticed when the museum opened on Monday morning.

In the items that have been reported stolen, the prime object was a five-tier lunch box made from gold and adorned with diamonds. Besides this, the thieves also stole a gold teacup, a saucer and a teaspoon again made from pure gold. Besides being valuable, because of the Gold content, the items are priceless because of their antique nature. The expensive stolen booty, weighing about 3 Kg, was presented to Mir Osman Ali Khan, Bayafandi Asaf Jah VII, on the silver jubilee of his rule in 1937.
Police suspect involvement of more than two persons in the heist. They also do not rule out the involvement of an insider, as firstly, the thief appeared familiar with the museum layout and secondly it was found that the heist was not recorded by the surveillance cameras as the thieves had tinkered with them.

Purani Haveli museum displays an unbelievable and fascinating collection of gifts received by the last Nizam. It was opened to public on February 18, 2000, by the trust headed by Prince Muffakham Jah, the younger grandson of the last Nizam. Among its collections is a 240-foot-long wardrobe of Nizam VI, a 120-year-old manually operated wooden lift lock and over 200-year-old proclamation drums. The museum has in its possession more than 1,000 exhibits, out of which only over 400 are showcased to the general public.

It is ironical that in the same building complex, where the heist took place, the South Zone Deputy Commissioner of Police (Hyderabad) and South Zone Task Force Police Additional l DCP offices are located. It is not the first time that Nizams possessions have been stolen from museums in Hyderabad. Nizam’s sword was stolen from the Andhra Pradesh State Museum a decade ago. Some Items, once belonging to Nizam, have gone missing from Salar Jung Museum also.  Police do not seem to be particularly enthusiastic about chances of finding the stolen goods as they say that stolen historical goods are rarely recovered as they find their way into collectors’ market in western nations. It appears that India has once again suffered a major loss due to another heist.

4th September 2018

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