Friday, February 24, 2012

Rajasthan museum seeks maharaja's plane crash wreckage

Maharaja Hanwant Singh Maharaja Hanwant Singh died in a plane crash in 1952

A museum in India's Rajasthan state has asked Jodhpur Central Jail to hand over the wreckage of an aircraft that crashed in 1952, killing Maharaja Hanwant Singh and his mistress.

The remains of the light aircraft were found in the jail's cellar last year, nearly 60 years after the crash.

Officials think the wreckage was kept in the jail because it was bad luck.

The museum is yet to decide what they will do with the plane's wreckage once they get possession of it.

The Maharaja of Jodhpur, Hanwant Singh, died in the plane crash with his mistress Zubeida while he was campaigning in newly independent India's first general elections in 1952.

The light aircraft, a Beechcraft Bonanza, was the flying maharaja's favourite.

Though he was married to royal princess Krishna Kumari, he spent his last days with Zubeida.

Popular museum

The wreckage was left unattended in the Jodhpur jail for decades.

According to the jail officials, the wreckage was found when staff there looked through a pile of rubble.

"First we thought it could be a wreckage from the Indo-Pak war, when Pakistan bombs hit the city and some inmates were killed. But later we found it is the wreckage of the late Maharaja Hanwant Singh's plane," a senior officer of the jail told the BBC.

The Mehrangarh Museum Trust, founded in 1972 by Maharaja Gaj Singh has sent a formal letter to the jail authorities seeking possession of the wreckage.

Jodhpur Jail Superintendent AR Niazi told the BBC the issue would be referred to the government for the final decision.

The director of the trust, Mahendra Singh Nagar, said it was not clear what they would do with the wreckage, "but it will be part of the museum trust".
The wreckage of the plane in Jodhpur Central Jail The wreckage is kept in the jail

The Mehrangarh Museum draws a large number of tourists - over 70,000 foreign visitors and 400,000 Indians, annually.

Hanwant Singh fielded candidates in the country's first general elections and gave the Congress Party a tough challenge.

He himself won a state assembly seat as well one in the Indian parliament.

But he died in the plane crash before the results were declared.

Noted film producer Shyam Benegal's film Zubeidaa highlighted the mistress's story. It was written by Zubeida's son Khalid Mohammed.

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