Will Islamabad lay claim to the Unnao ‘treasure’?
In 1976, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had laid claim to a share of a ‘treasure’ thought to be stacked in Jaipur's Jaigarh Fort, on the plea that it was an 'inheritance of the subcontinent' bequeathed to it by its 'pre-colonial sovereignties'.india Updated: Oct 22, 2013 01:22 IST
Pakistan must be watching with bated breath the ongoing excavation at the Shiv Temple in Duandia Kheda village in Unnao district, Uttar Pradesh after Hindu seer Shobhan Sarkar revealed that he had dreamt that Raja Rao Ram Baksh Singh, who gave his life fighting the British in 1857, told him to take care of the gold buried in the remains of his fort. The digging is being conducted by the Archaeological Survey of India following the Geological Survey of India’s confirmation of the presence of some metal substances underneath the temple.
Why should Pakistan be interested in archeological digging in India? It may be recalled that it was rumoured in 1976 that a treasure belonging to the Kachwaha rulers of Amber had been stacked in the Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur. The Income Tax authorities used metal detectors to carry out a search for ‘treasure’ between June-November 1976. However, it proved to be a futile exercise.
On August 11, 1976 while the search was still on, Pakistan Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in a letter to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, laid claim to a share of the ‘treasure’ on the specious plea that it was a “historical inheritance of the subcontinent, which was bequeathed” to it by its “pre-colonial sovereignties especially the Mughal Emperors”. He went on to suggest “that before or during the anarchy which ravaged the subcontinent and invited foreign domination, these assets were misappropriated and hoarded by a particular warlord and has no bearing whatsoever on their legal or moral ownership”.
Having put the ‘treasure’ in the historical perspective, he asked the then prime minister “to remain cognisant of Pakistan’s claim to its due share of the wealth”. Adding that since this asset was not known at the time of Partition in 1947, “the historical provenance of this treasure, regardless of the location of its physical discovery, makes it the joint patrimony of our two countries and I am confident that, with an approach based on equity, we will discountenance any usurpation and amicably arrive at a formula for the division between us”.
Having “built” his case on spurious arguments, he asked the then prime minister not to handle this matter “in a contentious, far less acrimonious manner” and added “I suppose that both our countries dispose of enough moral resources not to allow every claim to develop into a dispute but to settle it with fairness, vision and maturity”.
It was indeed an amusing if not comic interlude in the relations between the two countries, which had just then been restored after the Bangladesh developments. Indira Gandhi while replying to Bhutto on December 31, 1976, debunked his claim, since there was “no legal basis” and added in parenthesis that “the ‘treasure’ has turned out to be non-existent”.
Let’s keep our fingers crossed on whether Pakistan will once again lay claim to the so-called treasure currently being ‘excavated’ underneath the temple in Uttar Pradesh.
Avtar Singh Bhasin is a retired diplomat and author of 10-volume work, India-Pakistan Relations.
The views expressed by the author are personal.