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Last Updated: Thursday, 25 November, 2004, 09:39 GMT
Servants bequeathed more than peanuts
By Baldev Chauhan
BBC correspondent in Simla

A family's shock at the death of a north Indian princess was more than matched by consternation that she had left half her fortune to a pair of peanut sellers.

Raj Rajeshwari, 66, princess of Bilaspur in India's Himachal Pradesh state, reportedly changed her will shortly before she died.

She left about 25m rupees ($556,000) to a peanut-selling father and son who also worked as her domestic helpers.

The princess' brother is furious, accusing the beneficiaries of drugging her to change the will.

He has vowed to retrieve the property through the courts.

Old people's home

Subashish Panda, a district magistrate in Bilaspur, told the BBC: "According to Raj Rajeshwari's will, cash, gems and jewellery, a car, Persian carpets and rare artefacts have been left to Babloo Gupta and Ram Bilas.

The grieving ceremony has just ended... and now we will contest in court and claim our ancestral property
princess' sister-in-law

"The remaining half of the property has been handed over to a trust of the Himachal Pradesh government to open an old people's home."

Mr Panda said the new will had been signed on her birthday in the presence of a magistrate, Dhanvir Thakur.

On the same night, 9 November, she complained of chest pains and was admitted to hospital in the nearby town of Sundernagar, about 150km (95 miles) from state capital, Simla. She died two days later.

The princess' brother, Kriti Chand and his wife, Karuna, claim the servants "drugged" the princess into transferring assets into their name.

"The grieving ceremony has just ended today (Wednesday) and now we will contest in court and claim our ancestral property," Ms Karuna said.

She told the BBC the servants had been guilty of another previous act of "foul play".

But the domestic helpers say they are being accused simply because the princess bequeathed them property.

"Why would we do anything foul and put pressure on her, especially when she was so good to us?" they asked.

Mr Panda said that though the preliminary autopsy showed the princess had died of a heart attack, a forensic report would be completed in a few days.

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