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Nabha royal scion booked for selling palace by fraud

punjab Updated: Oct 30, 2013 00:15 IST
Vishal Rambani
Vishal Rambani
Hindustan Times
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The palace keeping the relics of Guru Gobind Singh was sold by fraud and looted. The royal scion and a leading industrialist are accused.

Hanuwant Singh Malvinder Bahadur, scion of the erstwhile Nabha estate, sold 18th-century Hira Mahal, once a royal abode, to Om Parkash Jindal, whose company here supplies parts to Maruti. By the will of Hanuwant's father, the property belongs to two trusts, one of which runs the elite Punjab Public School, Nabha, and the other the gurdwara where the sacred artefacts are on public display.

Before the country became independent in 1947, Nabha was one of seven Sikh princely states. After the death of its eighth maharaja, Partap Singh, on July 22, 1995, his son, Tikka Hanuwant Singh, inherited all his property except the ground floor of Hira Mahal given to Maharaja Partap Singh Trust to run The PPS, Nabha; and the first floor given to Gurdwara Siropao Darbar Trust.

The value

The land alone is worth `50 crore; while the paintings, silver palanquin, and other artefacts related to the Guru, some of which are missing, are invaluable.

Police are tight lipped, as the purchaser, Om Parkash Jindal, is close to many Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ministers in the state. Already, he faces three land-fraud inquires. "Jindal and his son are under arrest and the hunt for the other accused is on," was all that senior superintendent of police Hardial Singh Mann could say.

A view of the Hira Palace. Bharat Bhushan/HT

The original complaint was filed in 2009 but the first-information report (FIR) has come only now. Right to Information (RTI) activist Gurmel Singh had started it as a fight for restoring the Guru's relics but, during the course, it turned out to reveal land fraud.

The scam

Afterv Hira Mahal was transferred to the trusts, Hanumant Singh allegedly got his lawyer Ramesh Chand to make fake papers to claim ownership, and in 2002, sold palace as "agricultural land" to Jindal and his family.
After the Jindals took over the palace, the Guru relics went missing and the Parkash of Guru Granth Sahib stopped in the gurdwara. In 2009, the deputy commissioner and police uncovered the fraud in separate investigations.

The accused

The other accused besides Hanumant Singh and OP Jindal are industrialist's lawyer Ramesh Chand and purchasers Saurabh Jindal, Gaurav Jindal, Vikas Jindal, Vivek Jindal, and Abhishek Jindal, and some revenue officials who were posted in Nabha in 2002 and 2006.

The scion

Hanuwant Singh Malvinder Bahadur is grandson of Nabha's former mahraja Ripudaman Singh and son of ex-maharaja Partap Singh.

The palace

Hira Mahal was the residence of Nabha's erstwhile royal Family. Here, 14 relics of Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Sikh Guru, are on display on the first floor, which was a gurdwara opened to public in 1967.

The story of the relics

After the battle of Bhangani, Guru Gobind Singh, 10th Sikh Guru, 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.

Plea pending

A public-interest petition by Nabha Public Society, Dashmesh Nagar, is pending in the Punjab and Haryana high court, seeking directions to the authorities concerned to display the sacred relics of Guru Gobind Singh and other gurus at Hira Mahal in Nabha.

The relics now are locked in Patiala's fort monument of Quila Mubarak. For more than 240 years, these were at Hira Mahal.

The Punjab government, Maharaja Partap Singh Trust, Tikka Hanumant Singh, and The Punjab Public School, Nabha have orders to file replies before November 26.

Trust's chairman Tikka Hanumant Singh allegedly moved the sacred relics, heirlooms and writings to his house in Delhi. On the high court directions in 2008, the items were brought back from Delhi, but are since in Patiala.