The government has moved to stop the auction of a golden Rolex watch owned by Indias first President Rajendra Prasad in Switzerland later this month after his family complained it was a stolen property and taken out of the country illegally.
The Rolex Oyster Perpetual wristwatch is to come under the hammer on November 13. Both the government and the Indian envoy in Berne had so far been keeping mum on the issue despite protests from the former Presidents great-grandson Dr Ashok J Prasad and grand-daughter Tara Sinha who have been claiming that there is no proof that the watch was legally taken out of the country.
It is learnt that on directions from the PMO,Culture Secretary Jawahar Sircar has written to the Ministry of External Affairs,seeking immediate intervention in the matter. A copy has been sent to Indias ambassador to Switzerland Chitra Narayanan for action.
On Thursday,Ashok Prasad received a call from a Joint Secretary of the Culture Ministry who took down details of the matter. Although the official did not promise anything,he said the ministry was looking into the matter, Prasad told The Indian Express.
The family has been sending letters to various high offices to get the watch back in India. They are quite certain that Sotheby does not have authentic proof of ownership-transfer of the watch. Whoever is trying to get the auction done has obtained the watch illegally. Sothebys did not even acknowledge my letter, Prasad said.
The watch is a rare 18k gold Rolex,with a map of Indias and the date 26 January 1950 inscribed on it. International market estimates peg its auction price at around Rs 2 crore. The decision to intervene in this matter has come even as the government finalises guidelines on what should be done when historically and culturally significant items are auctioned.