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HindustanTimes Mon,21 Apr 2014

Unnao gold rush: forget treasure hunters, the claimants are here

Haidar Naqvi and Gulam Jeelani , Hindustan Times  Kanpur, October 25, 2013
First Published: 00:22 IST(25/10/2013) | Last Updated: 12:54 IST(25/10/2013)

The gold in Unnao, if any, is yet to show up. But the queue of claimants is about to reach Lucknow.

At its head is the royal family of Awadh —  the 22,000 jobless descendents of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah. Then there are the descendents of Raja Ram Rao Baksh Singh, who apparently buried the gold.

If not for the law, the government would have had a tough time to adjudicate. For one family contends the gold belonged to their ancestor, the other claims the land it lies on belonged to them.

“I am his descendant. I should get a part. How much I want will be decided when the gold is taken out,” said a belligerent Rao Chandi Ram Singh, the first off the mark to lay claim.

“Talukdar Raja Ram Rao Baksh was not rich enough to possess 1,000 tonnes of gold,” scoffed Shikoh Azad, secretary of royal family. “He did not even have the money for taxes and Wajid Ali Shah had to waive it. Plus, a chunk of the land belonged to Kishwar Begum, the mother of Nawab Wajid Ali Shah.” And their demand? A “mere 20% share”.

In face of the royal claims, Raja Ram Rao Baksh Singh’s descendents are eager to tell stories of his immense wealth. “He said he would give his daughter in marriage only to someone wealthier than him. He heaped his gold and gems and sent out an open challenge,” said Abhay Pratap Singh.

While this Battle Royale is on, the plebians are not lagging behind. The All India Kshatriya Mahasabha has already submitted its claim. Mahasabha president Jitendra Pratap Singh said the kshatriyas ruled Unnao. “The gold should have come to them and we represent the community.”

But Rama Shankar Vidyarathi, BSP parliamentarian from Deoria’s Salempur, doesn’t agree. “The region was ruled by the Rajbhars in the 13th century. The kshatriyas came much later. The gold belongs to Rajbhars.”

The ASI, though, pours water on the golden dreams with its letter of the law. “Under the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological sites and remains Act, 1958, the treasure belongs to the ASI. Such items are to be preserved,” said PK Mishra, superintending archaeologist, ASI Lucknow circle.

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