Theft of Rajendra Prasad's watch being probed
Patna: Bihar Police have begun a probe into how the gold wrist watch of India's first President Rajendra Prasad reached Geneva in Switzerland after being stolen from Patna in 1964, police said Tuesday.
"Police have decided to investigate the case after Rajendra Prasad's granddaughter Tara Sinha demanded a probe into the matter," said Patna's Senior Superintendent of Police Alok Kumar.
A case in this connection has also been formally lodged at Patna's Patliputra police station Monday by Ramjatan Sahay, president of the Bihar Vidhapeeth.
Deputy Superintendent of Police L.M. Sharma said that police would investigate the case from all angles. "We will approach everybody associated with this matter," he said.
Tara Sinha has been campaigning for months to bring back Rajendra Prasad's watch to India.
In November 2011, when the watch was about to be auctioned by Sotheby's at Geneva, Sinha urged the president, the prime minister and the Bihar chief minister to bring the watch back to India. In a letter to them, she wrote, "We, the grandchildren of Rajendra Prasad, are extremely shocked to learn that his watch is being auctioned by Sotheby's Geneva."
Auction house Sotheby's had postponed the sale of the Rolex wrist watch following a request by Indian authorities to not put it under the hammer in Geneva.
On Dec 27, 2011, Sinha wrote to the Patna police requesting for a probe into the case. "We fail to understand how his wrist watch reached Geneva. The matter must be probed to expose the people behind it," Sinha said.
The watch, possibly gifted to Prasad on the first Republic Day in 1950, is a Rolex Oyster and is made of pink gold. It has a map of India and the date of the country becoming a republic inscribed on it. The watch was stolen from Patna's Sadaqat Ashram in 1964. At Sotheby's, it was estimated to fetch between US$ 222,000 and 444,000.
"It is not an ordinary watch, but a gift to the first president on Republic Day. It is part of our national heritage," says Sinha.
Last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar that the centre would take all possible measures for putting off the auction of the wrist watch in the future.
"I refer to your (Nitish's) letter regarding the proposed auction of a Rolex gold watch originally owned by Rajendra Prasad. I share the concerns you have expressed," Singh said.
"It had been brought to my notice earlier and I had asked the ministries concerned to take appropriate steps," Singh said in his letter, adding that the ministries of culture and external affairs had succeeded in putting off the auction of the watch which was proposed to be held on November 13.
Singh said he had asked both the ministries to pursue the matter and be in touch with the family of India's first president.
"Therefore, I assure you that the centre would take all possible measures in this regard," he added.
Rajendra Prasad was born in 1884 at Ziradei in Bihar's Siwan district. After serving for 12 years as India's first president from 1950 to 1962, he retired and was subsequently awarded the Bharat Ratna, the nation's highest civilian honour.
He spent the last days of his life at the Sadaqat Ashram in Patna. Prasad died in 1963.