Recovered Indian Newspapers from French Glaciers could be from 1966 plane crash

Image source: BBC

“India’s First Woman Prime Minister”, this is the headline of an Indian newspaper copy referring to Indira Gandhi’s election win in 1966, that have been recovered from the melting French glacier of Bossons on the Mont Blanc mountain range in western Europe, after 54 years of the plane crash of an Air India plane.

Timothee Mottin, whose restaurant is near the Chamonix ski resort area, told the local French daily Le Dauphine Libere, “They are drying now but they are in very good condition. You can read them. Once they’ve dried out, they will be displayed in my  restaurant, as part of a collection of items from the crash.” He further added “It’s not unusual. Every time we walk on the glacier with friends, we find remains of the crash. With experience, you know where they are. They are being carried along by the glacier according to their size.”

In 1966, the Air India Boeing named ‘Kanchenjunga’ crashed after a verbal flight control miscommunications error between the pilot and the radar controller near the summit of Mount Blanc mountain that lies along the French-Italian border and extends into Switzerland. There were no survivors, in the crash claiming the life of 117 people, including 11 crew members. Homi Jehangir Bhabha — revered as the father of India’s nuclear programme also died in the plane crash.

Homi J. Bhaba/ Image source: The Better India

After the plane crash, there were several news reports who claimed, that Dr Homi Jehangir Baba’s death was not an accident but sabotage planned by the CIA. According to a French national, Daniel Roche, who has spent over half a decade researching the crash, “It probably was a result of the plane being hit by a military aircraft or missile. While the parts of Malabar Princess were found around one spot, those of Kanchenjunga were found scattered around a 25 km range,” a report quotes him as saying. “If the Kanchenjunga had crashed into the mountain, there should have been a huge fire and an explosion as there were 41,000 tonnes of fuel in the aircraft. But that was not the case.”   

Timothee Mottin plans to display the newspapers in his restaurant near Chamonix/ Image source: AFP

Over the years, a lot of items have been discovered from near the crash sites. In 2013, a climber discovered a box of precious stones including emeralds, sapphires and rubies that was estimated to be worth between €130,000 (£117,000; $147,000) and €246,000 (£221,000; $279,000). In 2016, according to a report, diplomatic documents classified “A” (top secret) and “B” (official communication) were also discovered. Some of these documents were related to “Indian assessments of Chinese defence production, missile development, and nuclear weapons program” and are from the 1966 crash.

In 2019, on an official visit to France Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a monument dedicated to victims of two deadly Air India plane crashes—Malabar Princess in 1950 and Kanchenjunga in 1966. The monument to honour them is located at Nid d’Aigle, a French village near the foothills of Mont Blanc. 

It is designed by Bossonet Marbrerie, a French architectural firm, the monument “resembles a cairn with its “balanced stones representing the ‘perfectly aligned thought and intention of the people’ of India and France to remember the victims of the two air crashes.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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Vasundhra Singh Panwar

Vasundhra Singh Panwar is a Former Journalism Intern at The Kootneeti

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