Plight of the Punjab Archives

On behalf of the community of historians and researchers, we thank The Tribune for exposing the shocking mishandling of the irreplaceable archival documents and rare books in the process of shifting them from Rajindra Kothi to the Punjab Languages Department. We are particularly grateful to your paper for forcefully pleading for the preservation and proper maintenance of archival records, which constitute our heritage, rather our memory whose loss could eventually prove very costly to society.

It was heartening to note that PUDA has stopped tampering with the Rajindra and that the Archives Department has stopped the ‘transfer process’ for the present. We strongly feel that steps should be taken first to immediately bring the precious records back to where they were sent from and then to catalogue and maintain these records in a state of easy access to researchers. If they could work in a more pleasant environment, it would only serve as an additional incentive

After entering the British Library the researchers do not leave the building, it is said, till they are alt forced out. Even the British Library took several years to construct its present building and shift the oriental records. However, more than 50 years have passed since Independence, and it is high time that the Punjab Government thought of a specially designed building for housing its records and rare books. Unless the process is initiated now, our precious heritage is going to be wasted away.

Lastly, the Indian Historical Records Commission recommended long ago that the Record Rooms of the State Archives should be properly constructed under expert guidance and that their reading/research rooms should be user friendly.

P.L. Mehra (member, Standing Committee, IHRC), J.S. Grewal (former VC, GNDU), Kiran Pawar, J.K. Sharma, Reeta Grewal, Veena Sachdeva, Supriya Verma, Indu Banga (Deptt. of History, P.U., Chandigarh), Sheena Pall, Sasha, Kuldeep, Charu Plaha, Researchers, P.U., Chandigarh

Reorganise state archives
It is in a state of deep anguish that we are responding to the news item on shifting the Punjab State Archives to a destination which is yet unknown.

Perhaps the bureaucrats and politicians of Punjab have not yet learnt to cherish the value of their archival material. For a researcher of the past society, culture, religion and values of Punjab, the State Archives have proffered material of inestimable value. It was with some reason that scholars of the eminence of Dr S. N. Bannerjee, Dr Ganda Singh and V.S. Suri had decided to house these records of the past in one of the heritage buildings of Patiala. They nurtured and enriched the archives with great love and diligence. The library and the archival material have been utilised by every historian of name. For any scholar who has done research on any topic related to Punjab from India or abroad, a visit to the State Archives has been absolutely necessary. All members of the history departments, both past and present, have produced research works and made valuable contribution to the world of scholarship after making use of materials at the State Archives.

It must be kept in mind that whenever the records have seen shifted, a lot many documents have been either pilfered or damaged or have just ‘disappeared’. Intriguingly, a large number of precious documents are now stacked in the offices of the micro-film companies in Switzerland and the New York State Library. And kindly do not take the information with scepticism that scholars from the USA, the UK and Australia have already managed to procure a lot of material through questionable means.

We therefore appeal to the Government of Punjab (1) that the records of the past heritage should remain in the heritage building; (2) that the archives should be reorganised on scientific lines under the competent guidance of the National Archives of India; (3) that a whole-time Director with professional competence be appointed to look after the archives; and (4) that a research room should be opened for the exclusive use of researchers.
We also take this opportunity to appeal to the Chief Minister to kindly look into the matter and give an assurance to the academic community of Punjab that the government would desist from taking any mis-step which proves to be detrimental to the cause of the academic life of our universities. Any hasty step to transfer the archives is bound to result in losses which it will be very difficult to redress.

Prof Harish Sharma, Prof Joginder Singh, Prof Sulakhan Singh, Dr Sukhwant Singh, Dr Amandeep, Prof Gurdev Singh, Prof Radha Sharma, Dr S.S. Sohal, Mrs Sarabjeet Kaur, Faculty of History, Guru Nanak Dev University, Amritsar

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