Kavita Suri

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Jammu all set to get back priceless rare manuscripts from Kashmir valley after five decades

Manuscripts to be micro-filmed, copies to be kept in Kashmir valley

Thanks to the “Jammu-centric ministers” who are a part of the Mufti Sayeed-led coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, the region which has been long discriminated by the Kashmir rulers, would be getting some justice at last in some matters of great importance.

The first big step in this regard has been initiated by the Education ministry which has ordered return of over 500 rare and priceless manuscripts and books which were clandestinely shifted to Kashmir in 1952 by the Kashmir rulers.

A total of 542 priceless manuscripts had been shifted to the Valley in 1952-53 clandestinely  including Danishnama with Hindi Translation, Vaitala Pachisi , Valmikiya Ramayana, Abhigayana Shakuntala, Surya-Kavacha, Hanuman Nataka, Narayana Stotra, Army Regulations, Vichar Mala, Papier Mache, Alf-Laila, Rasala-Ilm-Kermya (medicine), Kitab-Hikmatnama (science), Sikander-Nama, Tarikhene Nadiri, Sharai-Tehjeeb (culture) and Ikhlaqe-Muhammadi.

All the shifted manuscripts, without any exception, are as rare as they are of immense value. While most of them are of historical and religious nature, some of them deal with philosophy, social and cultural life, military strategy, science and education. There are also a few manuscripts which deal with the art of painting. There are, in addition, a few collection of letters, which have also been shifted from SRS Library to Kashmir division and these also form part of the transferred manuscripts.

The Education ministry led by Education Minister Mr Harsh Dev Singh (who represents Panthers Party in the coalition government) had set-up a three member Committee of renowned educationists led by Prof Hari Om, member, Indian Council of Historical Research, Prof Raj Kumar, HoD Hindi Department, Jammu University and Prof Ramnika Jalali, HoD Sanskrit Department, Jammu University, vide government order no 108- EDU of 2003 late last month to ascertain the truth behind the shifting of these rare manuscripts to Kashmir in 1952.

After an investigation of ten days which included visiting Sri Ranbir Singh Library Jammu and discussing the issues with Dr Sapru, Director Libraries and Research, Mr Nazir Ahmad Bhat, Deputy Director Libraries Jammu and other officials, the committee which submitted its report on Tuesday last , confirmed that the priceless books and manuscripts were shifted to the Valley from Jammu. "It is indeed difficult to find such a huge collection of invaluable manuscripts at one place. There are only a couple of libraries and research institutes in the country which can boast of possessing such precious documents dealing with history, religion, society, polity, science, philosophy, ,military science, education and art,” it said making strong recommendations for shifting these back to the Sri Ranbir Singh (SRS) Library Jammu and keeping micro-filed copies of the books in Kashmir. 

Confirming that the historical records were shifted from Jammu library to Kashmir in 1952-53, the three member , the Committee member Prof Hari Om informed The Statesman what they observed : "All the shifted manuscripts, without any exception, are as rare as they are of immense value. While most of them are of historical and religious nature, some of them deal with philosophy, social and cultural life, military strategy, science and education. There are also a few manuscripts which deal with the art of painting. There are, in addition, a few collection of letters, which have also been shifted from SRS Library to Kashmir division and these also form part of the transferred manuscripts".

"These were only few books to name and a large number of manuscripts have been shifted to Kashmir", the Committee said, adding the books pertained to medicines, literary, sciences, culture, arts, handicrafts, civilisation and religion. All all the manuscripts , however, were intact and readily available in one of the libraries in Kashmir division. "A statement to this effect was made by none other than the Director, Libraries and Research, Dr S Sapru and we go by what he has said", said Prof Hari Om.

The Committee also suggested that manuscripts should be brought back to SRS Library from Kashmir and made available to the researches and students of Jammu region in order to enable them to enrich their knowledge and facilitate their educational pursuits. “The manuscripts are part of Jammu’s rich and invaluable heritage, which needs to be preserved at all costs. It would be better if the State Government undertakes measures of the type the National Archives of India, New Delhi, has been undertaking for quite sometime now in order to protect and preserve the historical records", it said suggesting that microfilms of the manuscripts be prepared in duplicate under tight scrutiny and one set of them be kept in Srinagar library also so as to enable the researchers and students belonging to Kashmir division to enrich their knowledge. 

Despite their best efforts, the committee members could not ascertain the circumstances under which the manuscripts were shifted from SRS Library to Kashmir division. However it added :"The reasons are not really difficult to fathom. Had there been someone still working with the SRS Library, Jammu during whose time these manuscripts were transferred from the winter capital to the summer capital, the story would have been somewhat different. We would have certainly reflected on those circumstances as also on those persons/officials involved.

The three member committee also suggested the government to earmark a substantial amount so that the rare manuscripts and innumerable other important books, reports and journals available with the SRS Library, Jammu are properly preserved for the coming generations. It would be better if the State Government undertakes measures of the type the National Archives of India, New Delhi, has been undertaking for quite sometime now in order to protect and preserve the historical records", it added.

The panel also availed the services of Dr Jigar Mohammad, Head of Jammu University’s History Department as he was well versed with Persian and Arabic. Number of the manuscripts shifted to Kashmir division is more than 540, it said.

While accepting the panel's recommendations, Education Minister Harsh Dev Singh has now directed that all priceless manuscripts should be microfilmed and a duplicate copy of the books should be kept in Kashmir so that researchers, students and historians in the Valley get themselves benefited from the books. 

However it may take three months before the actual rare manuscripts are restored at the original place—Sri Ranbir Singh (SRS) Library as the ancient library has no more space to accommodate these books. The library which borrows its name from Dogra King Maharaja Pratap Singh, is the oldest library of the state of Jammu and Kashmir set up in established in 1887. 

Mr Harsh Dev Singh told The Statesman that he has however sanctioned a grant of Rs 25 lakh for enhancing the infrastructure and computerization of the Sri Pratap Singh Library so that the rare manuscripts and books are shifted back here ate the earliest. Directions have been issued to start the work in the SRS Library on war footing .He also informed that separate cabins would be constructed in the Library to preserve the manuscripts. 

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