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3 yrs on, foreign hand in Gulbarga’s Nazi plane mystery

In 2002, a rare World War-II Messerchmitt Bf-109 used by the Germans vanished into thin air from a college campus in Karnataka’s Gulbar...

Written by Johnson T A | Bangalore |
July 25, 2005

In 2002, a rare World War-II Messerchmitt Bf-109 used by the Germans vanished into thin air from a college campus in Karnataka’s Gulbarga town. Three years later, Karnataka police sources and others involved in trying to find and restore the aircraft say it has probably been sold abroad for a huge sum.

On record though, a file remains open in the Gulbarga Town police station in connection with the case and monthly reports are being sent to the Dharam Singh government, stating that the prime accused—a scrap metal dealer—and the aircraft are yet to be traced.

The Gulbarga police, called into investigate the disappearance after locals protested over the vanishing of the public property, has registered a complaint against the Poojya Doddappa Appa Engineering college, from where the aircraft went missing.

Gulbarga SP P Ramachandra Rao says the aircraft has been reduced to junk and sold for its metal by Girish Naidu, to whom the college authorities claim to have sold the aircraft—in exchange for a Pushpak aircraft, a vintage car, a motorcycle and a bicycle.

‘‘Investigations have shown that the college authorities were probably even paid a huge sum in cash, apart from the exchange deal. This should never have been allowed,’’ said a police official.

The police had in 2002 arrested the board members of the Hyderabad Karnataka Education Society (HKES), which runs the engineering college, including its chief B G Jawali, a senior Congress politician, for selling government property. They were later released on bail.

Girish Naidu, the buyer according to college authorities, also obtained bail, and disappeared. The Gulbarga police say they have followed his trail to Hyderabad, Pune and other places with little luck.

The elusive Naidu has told HKES that he will return the antique aircraft if the society refunds his money, says the Gulbarga SP.

The story of the Messerchmitt Bf-109 goes back to the late 1930s when it was captured by the Royal Air Force in Europe. In 1941, it is believed to have been handed over to the Nizam of Hyderabad as a gift.

The aircraft was then donated to Gulbarga Town (a part of the erstwhile Hyderabad-Karnataka region) by the Nizam and was initially kept at the Gulbarga Municipal Corporation park. In 1961, it was moved to the engineering college as a model aircraft for students.

It was ‘‘rediscovered’’ in mid-2002 when an aviation enthusiast recognised it as an Bf-109, with the Swastika on its tail. The aircraft was then named the ‘Discovery of the Year’ by, sparking a buzz in the country’s aviation circles. The IAF and some private parties then tried to obtain the aircraft and restore it but were turned down by college authorities.

‘‘We wanted to protect the aircraft since it is a part of Indian legacy. It should have been registered under the Antiques Act and kept in a museum here. But it seems to have gone out surreptitiously,’’ says Air Marshal (retd) TJ Master, who was involved in Defence Ministry-backed efforts to obtain the aircraft in 2002.

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