Rare Artefact: SGPC debunks Antony claim

manuscriptsSGPC president Avtar Singh shows the list of rare books and manuscripts in Amritsar on Friday. On left is CBI Inspector Ranjit Singh Nanda.

In a missive, Rajya Sabha member Tarlochan Singh, in Parliament on February 18 sought clarification from SGPC president Avtar Singh whether any representative of the SGPC had given any certification to the Central government that it (SGPC) did not want to pursue the case of the Sikh Reference Library anymore.

However, the SGPC chief described the claim of Defence Minister AK Antony as a “white lie” and sought his immediate sacking as the Defence Minister for “misleading” Parliament.

The SGPC president received shot in the arm when a retired CBI inspector Ranjit Singh Nanda, who was sitting with him in a press conference to clarify that he (Nanda) himself took the rare manuscripts/books or articles to the local youth hostel in gunny bags and trunks after the Army operation.

The SGPC president said the statement of Antony that the Army did not possess any manuscripts/articles was “baseless, misleading and factually incorrect”.

He said the fact remained that the SGPC had been taking up the case of returning more than 1,500 books of the Sikh Reference Library and other articles for the past 25 years.

The SGPC submitted a number of memorandums to Presidents, Prime Ministers and other Defence Ministers during their visits to Golden Temple in this regard. He said it was enough proof that CBIs then Inspector Nanda had spilled the beans on the claims of the Central government by revealing startling facts.

Nanda was a part of the five-member team that scrutinised the religious literature taken from the Sikh Reference Library at the time of Operation Bluestar.

He alleged that the Congress had been “anti-Sikh” and hence it failed to accept the t genuine demand of the Sikhs even after lapse of 25 years of the Army operation.

However, the SGPC president could not give proper reply when asked as to why the SGPC failed to get the articles of the Sikh Reference Library during the NDA government’s regime.

SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh, who attended the meeting called by the Union Home Secretary on October 6, 2004 had also informed them that the rare artefact and manuscripts of the Sikh Reference Library were not restored to the SGPC.

The representative of the Ministry of Home Affairs had also given confusing statement that the books/manuscripts had either been handed over to the SGPC or to the government of Punjab.

The SGPC president said though few books and copies of newspapers were handed over to the Shiromani Committee but the rare books/manuscripts had not been returned so far. The then Chief Secretary, Punjab, had also mentioned in his affidavit about the gold coins/ornaments etc. belonging to the SGPC.

The minutes of the meeting also mentioned that claims of the SGPC that 10,500 books and 500 original manuscripts were still in possession of the CBI or the Central government.

The SGPC president said the irony was that the CBI, which was accused of taking away the artefact of the Sikh library, was asked to conduct the investigation despite opposition by the representative of the Shiromani Committee.

The repository of over 1,500 invaluable rare manuscripts, including copies of the Adi Granth, Damdami Bir (dated Bikrami 1,739) and portraits was destroyed during the Operation Bluestar. Earlier too, conflicting statements of the then Defence Minister George Fernandes complicated the matter.

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