The Punjab government is making a spectacle of the return of Gurus’ relics, while the state police are making a mockery of re-investigation into the forgery that took away the historical objects’ original home.
They have absolved Tikka Hanuwant Singh, scion of erstwhile Nabha royal family, even though their previous inquiry proved that he had sold off Hira Mahal, the old royal palace that his father, the last ruler of Nabha, had willed to a trust. They have given a clean chit also to five members of a family linked with Hindu radical organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to whom the property was sold.
Hanuwant Singh Malvinder Bahadur is grandson of Nabha’s former maharaja, Ripudaman Singh, and son of ex-maharaja Partap Singh. The relics were in a gurdwara on the palace’s first floor when Hanuwant Singh took them to Delhi in 2000 after selling off the property.
After the so-called re-investigation, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Om Parkash Jindal and lawyer Ramesh Chand Arora remain the only names on the police charge sheet, while the names of five other members of the Jindal family (Saurabh, Gaurav, Vikas, Vivek, and Abhishek), two revenue officials, and Tikka Hanuwant Singh are dropped.
After the arrest of OP Jindal in October 2013, state BJP president Kamal Sharma had visited him in the lockup and, later, the party had pressurised the police into ordering reinvestigation, after the police as well as the deputy commissioner’s office had already indicted him for forgery in separate inquiries.
Re-investigation that was needless
The re-investigation by deputy superintendent of police Chand Singh left many gaps, and sources said it shouldn’t have been ordered in the first place, when the first-information report (FIR) had been registered after three years of inquiry and on the recommendation of district attorney based on documentary evidence.
“I found that the other accused (five buyers from the Jindal family and two revenue officials) had no ill-intention. Jindal exploited their trust to commit forgery,” said DSP Chand Singh. He didn’t say how the intentions were good, when the money for the palace had been paid from bank accounts.
The officer also didn’t say how Tikka Hanuwant Singh was clean, as clearly he had no right to sell the property. Asked to comment, Tikka Hanuwant Singh said: “I won’t, since the matter is pending in the court.”
“Police are under the pressure of the RSS and the BJP,” said complainant Gurmail Singh of Nabha, adding: “But I have many documentary proofs to challenge the police decision in the (Punjab and Haryana) high court.”
Hira Mahal was the residence of Nabha’s erstwhile royal family. Here, 14 relics of Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Sikh Guru, were on display on the first floor, which was a gurdwara opened to public in 1967.
The eighth maharaja, Partap Singh, willed the property to two trusts, of which one runs the elite Punjab Public School, Nabha, and the other looks after the gurdwara where the sacred artefacts were on display.
After Partap Singh died on July 22, 1995, his son, Tikka Hanuwant Singh, inherited all his property except the ground floor given to Maharaja Partap Singh Trust to run the school; and the first floor given to Gurdwara Siropao Darbar Trust.
After Hira Mahal was transferred to the trusts, royal scion Hanuwant Singh allegedly got lawyer Ramesh Chand to make fake papers to claim ownership, and in 2002, sold off the palace as “agricultural land” to BJP leader Om Parkash Jindal and his family.
After the Jindals took over the palace, the Guru’s relics went missing and the Parkash of Guru Granth Sahib in the gurdwara stopped. In 2009, the deputy commissioner and police uncovered the fraud in separate investigations.
The case was registered on Oct 28, 2013, at the Kotwali police station of Nabha under Sections 420 (cheating), 465 (punishment for forgery), 467 (forgery of will), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using a forged document as genuine), and 120-B (punishment for criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).
The story of the relics
After the battle of Bhangani, Guru Gobind Singh bestowed his turban, comb with hair, a sword, and a Hukamnama (edict) to Fakir (Muslim saint) Budhu Shah. The memorabilia, later, came into the hands of the-then maharaja of Nabha and were kept along with Guru Granth Sahib at Hira Mahal for public display.