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Sikh Reference Library: C.B.I. in a Spot


The Tribune, Amritsar, India, Jun. 12, 2000

The C.B.I. [Central Bureau of Intelligence] is in a spot after startling disclosures by its former inspector that the rare manuscripts, hukam-namas [edicts], books, and other materials were taken in gunny bags and big trunks to an unknown place after Operation Bluestar in 1984. A spokesman for the C.B.I. had denied that such material was still in its possession, as stated by the defence minister, George Fernandes, recently while replying to a letter from the S.G.P.C. Ranjit Singh Nanda, a former inspector in the Punjab Police, remained on deputation with the C.B.I. after the assassination of A.S. Atwal, the then Inspector-General of Police, on the Golden Temple premises in 1983. Nanda said that the materials were taken to a youth hostel where they were packed in gunny bags and trunks after proper cataloging before being taken to an unknown place. The disclosures made by Nanda have substantiated the S.G.P.C.'s claims that the material is still lying with the C.B.I.

The issue of the Sikh Reference Library has become more vexed owing to the confusing statements being given by all concerned. According to Dr. Santokh Singh Sheharyar, an eminent Punjabi poet and Assistant Librarian, Guru Nanak Dev University, more than 20,000 books worth about Rs. 20 lakh, 2500 handwritten volumes of holy Sikh scriptures, 500 handwritten rare books/documents relating to Sikh tenets and traditions, and 200 typed copies of rare books/documents were taken out from the Sikh Reference Library by the Army. Dr. Sheharyar said that rare journals and periodicals, 18 volumes pertaining to paintings, and other material was still missing. He said while the value of books and other material was Rs. 23 lakh, the value of rare manuscripts, handwritten Guru Granth Sahibs and edicts could not be assessed.

Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former secretary of the S.G.P.C., endorsed Nanda's statement that the invaluable material was first taken to a youth hostel before being taken to an unknown place. Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary of the S.G.P.C., said that the stand of the S.G.P.C. stood vindicated that the rare material was still with the C.B.I. 16 years after Operation Bluestar. He said a deputation of the S.G.P.C. would meet the prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, to seek his immediate intervention in getting the materials returned to the Sikh Reference Library. Nanda disclosed that the C.B.I. was desperately looking for the purported letter from Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister, written to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. However, he said, he had seen some letters written by Jagjit Singh Chauhan and other leaders addressed to Sant Bhindranwale. Calcutta had alleged that the Army had set the Sikh Reference Library on fire in desperation when it failed to find the letter.

Nanda claimed that he had enough proof to substantiate his claim that the C.B.I. had taken invaluable material from the Sikh Reference Library. Interestingly, conflicting statements from Fernandes have created a confusion of sorts around this issue. Responding to a March 27 letter from the S.G.P.C. Fernandes had informed Bachan that 'the books and documents that were recovered from the Sikh Reference Library, Golden Temple, had been handed over to the C.B.I. by the Army.' Fernandes' letter was received by the S.G.P.C. on May 10. He had advised the S.G.P.C. authorities to contact the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances, and Pensions, which oversees the C.B.I., to get the material back.

Earlier, while responding to a starred question raised by Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Sukhdev Singh Libra on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on December 2, 1998, Fernandes said that the 'Army had removed certain items from the premises of the Golden Temple complex in 1984.' The Army had handed over some items to the C.B.I. in July 1984. The C.B.I., in turn, returned these documents to an authorised representative of the S.G.P.C. in October 1989. A few documents were found to be 'objectionable' and thus 'destroyed.' The S.G.P.C. and renowned Sikh scholars are of the view that more than 90 per cent of the material is still intact and should be returned to the S.G.P.C. immediately. Otherwise, the invaluable material could get destroyed without proper maintenance. Bachan has acknowledged that the material which was handed over to the S.G.P.C. was intact.