What Unites Climate Change, Indira Gandhi, and a Mysterious Air Crash in the French Alps?


What Unites Climate Change, Indira Gandhi, and a Mysterious Air Crash in the French Alps?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The melting of a glacier in the French Alps has led one café owner to make an interesting discovery. A trove of old Indian newspapers, dating back to 1966, were found close to the tourist hotspot Chamonix, an AFP report said. The newspapers, which included copies of The Hindu, the National Herald, The Statesman and The Economic Times all carried headlines about Indira Gandhi becoming the first woman prime minister of our country.

Discovered by café owner Timothee Mottin, the papers are dated January 20 and 21, 1966. Notably, they were all discovered near the crash site of the Air India Boeing flight, “Kanchenjunga”.

Among the passengers on this plane was Dr Homi Bhabha, the former head of India’s Atomic Energy Commission, reports said.


A copy of the National Herald found near the crash site, under the Mont Blanc glacier.


The official cause for the crash of that plane has generally been attributed to a verbal miscommunication in the cockpit, but several conspiracy theories have been floated about the death of the atomic scientist in the years since, especially back home in India.

Once the papers have dried out, meanwhile, they will join a growing collection of items from the crash that Mottin has put on display at his café, reports said. Indira Gandhi’s announcement as India’s first woman president will join the ranks.

“It’s not unusual. Every time we walk on the glacier with friends, we find remains of the crash,” Timothee was quoted as saying by a French newspaper. “With experience, you know where they are. They are being carried along by the glacier according to their size.”


Café owner Timothee Mottin poses with his discovery.


With summer temperatures on the rise in the region, there have been several finds related to the 1966 Air India crash in the area since 2012.

In that year, along side news of Indira Gandhi, a bag carrying diplomatic mail stamped with “On Indian Government Service, Diplomatic Mail, Ministry of External Affairs”, was recovered from the Mont Blanc glacier.

A year later another trekker found a metal box that had the Air India logo imprinted on it and contained emeralds, sapphires and rubies worth hundreds and thousands of euros.

Human remains from another Indian plane that also crashed into the mountain in 1950, the Malabar Princess, have also been found in the area. With ice continuing to melt in the region we can expect more vestiges of Indian history to be recovered in the coming years.