The Nizam Museum that witnessed a major heist of invaluable gold and diamond antique properties on Sunday (2 September) night in Hyderabad is a sitting duck for thieves. Estimated to preserve antiques worth around Rs 25,000 crore as per existing international market, this museum is just manned by three (night) and two (day) security guards with sticks till last week. At the time of the heist by two still unidentified thieves at 3 am, only two guards were on duty, but were completely unaware of what was going on inside the halls and the CCTV cameras were not working and there was no alarm bell, a standard security requirement as per international museums maintenance. Worse, there was no proper street lighting around the museum building in Purana Haveli in the Old City. The burglars decamped with a two-tier golden tiffin box, (“toshe-daan”) studded with diamonds on its knob along with a golden tea cup, a saucer and a golden spoon and their estimated value is around Rs 100 crore, as per the antique trading houses in London and Paris, according to the Hyderabad police. These items of Nizam are in great demand in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
The museum showcases the gifts presented to Mir Osman Ali Khan, Seventh and last Nizam on the silver jubilee celebrations of his rule in 1936. He had then received hundreds of gifts mostly in gold and jewellery from within and abroad. The Nizam, however, wished that all the gifts be preserved and showcased for public and the museum was opened in 18 February 2000.
The city police have formed 15 teams and put a forensic and detective clues team to nab the burglars on Monday morning, but so far there is no information on the heist. Two teams have visited antique dealers in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata this week and a team also is expected to visit London, too, to alert the dealers about the crime.
However, what shocked not just the kith and of Nizams but also antique lovers across the world was the appalling condition of security at the museum that was run by the Nizam Jubilee Pavilion Trust, looked after by Prince Muffakham Jah, another grandson of Seventh Nizam. Princess Esra Jah, first wife of erstwhile Nizam (VIII), Prince Mukarram Jah expressed shock and dismay over the heist. She urged the police to take steps to see that the stolen antiques were recovered and the museum’s security stepped up. Raunaq Yar Khan, a great grandson of Sixth Nizam Mir Mabub Ali Khan, too, expressed his shock and anguish over continuing thefts and burglaries from Nizam properties in Hyderabad. He demanded that there be a proper audit and recording of all objects in the museum and other places in the city. He alleged that the regular thefts from the museum and other places reflect the hand of some insiders who know things well. Even the police suspect that Sunday’s burglary might be an insider’s job as the two youth (whose images were recovered for six seconds on a CCTV camera outside the museum building) haven’t touched any other objects in the shelves, except the stolen ones. There were other golden antiques in the next shelf, but they didn’t touch them.