SRINAGAR: Rare Gilgit manuscripts which were taken away by National Archives of India (NAI) have not been returned to Jammu and Kashmir despite the passage of 70 years, and repeated requests made by the former Prime Minister Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, and his predecessors. The government of India has also not returned Burzihama artifacts, preserved in a museum at Kolkatta.
A top official of Archives, Archaeology and Museums department, on the condition of anonymity told Kashmir Reader that some 300 such manuscripts which store the evolution of Buddasim from Kashmir still lie in the custody of NAI.
“Between these 70 years, we have written, to them scores of times, but only to learn that they will not be returned,” the official said. “The fate of Burzihama artifacts remains the same.”
According to former secretary Academy of art, culture and languages, Mohammad Yousuf Teng, the manuscripts were taken in 1947 on the request of former Indian prime minister Pandit Jawahar lal Nehru, who apprehended that they may get destroyed, in case a bomb may hit the SPS museum where they have been preserved.
“When India and Pakistan fought over Kashmir in 1947, Nehru phoned Sheikh to preserve these rare manuscripts which have the universal appeal at NIA for the time tensions between the two countries will be over at NAI,” Teng recalled. “In 1952, sheikh reminded Nehru about them, who promised to return them in coming years. In 1953, he was imprisoned. Nobody during this time asked for it,” he said.
Then, Teng said, he reminded Sheikh again, who was very angry with the cold response of GoI in 1975. He wrote a very strong letter, asking them for return, but was told that they manuscripts were of ‘national’ importance, and would be kept here.
Against the GoI’s unwillingness, a civil society group Valley Citizens Council filed a case in J&K High Court for the return of the manuscripts and other artifacts. The case is still pending there.
The officials said that they have recently written to the GoI again, but were shown cold response.