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Piracy in the Garb of Research


The Tribune, Sep. 14, 2002

About ten years ago, Punjabi University announced the republication of volumes of the Sikh encyclopaedia compiled by Bhai Kahan Singh of Nabha and published in 1931. I had them but was anxious to get the new version in the hope that it would be updated. Nothing of the sort; the new version is a replica of the old without a word added. . . . In fact it was a printer's job carried out at the behest of the university, which took credit for research.

The pattern is being followed to this day. The most recent example is of Guru Nanak Dev University of Amritsar. It has announced the publication of 20 books to mark the bicentenary celebration of the coronation of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. Some of the editors are vice-chancellors. I expected to see something about the Maharaja which I had not seen before. I did not come across anything of the sort. All 20 publications are compilations of books and articles published some time ago. No new research has been carried out. At best the publications could, in Disraeli's words, be described as plagiarism with the merit of preservation.

[T]he Indian History Congress . . . is due to meet in Guru Nanak Dev University at the end of the year. No doubt delegates clad in black and red gowns will be presented this set of books. They will see for themselves what passes for research in Punjab's universities. Punjab has produced eminent historians in recent years: Hari Ram Gupta, Ganda Singh Suri, Hew Mcleod and Professor Harbans Singh, editor of four volumes of Encyclopaedia of Sikhism. This legacy must not be frittered away by piracy in the garb of research.