|Monday, June 12, 2000,
CBI in spot over Sikh library issue
AMRITSAR, June 11 — The CBI is in a spot after the startling disclosures by its former inspector that the rare manuscripts, ‘hukamnamas’, books and material were taken in gunny bags and big trunks to an unknown place after Operation Bluestar in 1984.
A spokesman for the CBI had denied that such material was still in its possession, as stated by the Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, recently while replying to a letter of the SGPC.
Mr Ranjit Singh Nanda, a former Inspector in the Punjab Police, remained on deputation with the CBI after the assassination of A.S. Atwal, the then Inspector-General of Police on the Golden Temple premises in 1983. Mr Nanda said that the rare books were taken to a youth hostel, where these were packed in gunny bags and trunks after proper cataloguing before taking them to an unknown place. The disclosures made by Mr Nanda have substantiated the claims of the SGPC that the material of the Sikh Reference Library was still lying with the CBI.
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 of the value of 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.
Mr Manjit Singh Calcutta, a former secretary of the SGPC, endorsed the statement of Mr Nanda that the invaluable material was first taken to a youth hostel before being taken to an unknown place.
Mr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, secretary, SGPC, said that the stand of the SGPC stood vindicated that the rare material was still with the CBI even 16 years after Operation Bluestar. He said a deputation of the SGPC would meet the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, to seek his immediate intervention in getting back the material of Sikh Reference Library.
Mr Nanda disclosed that the CBI was desperately looking for the purported letter of Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, written to Sant Jarnail Singh Bhinderanwale. However, he said, he had seen some letters written by Jagjit Singh Chohan and other leaders addressed to Sant Bhinderanwale. Mr Calcutta had alleged that the Army had set the Sikh Reference Library on fire in desperation when it failed to find a letter of Indira Gandhi.
Mr Nanda claimed that he had enough proof to substantiate his claim that the CBI had taken invaluable material from the Sikh Reference Library.
Interestingly, the conflicting statements of Mr George Fernandes, have created a confusion of sorts of this issue. Responding to a letter of the SGPC on March 27 last, Mr Fernandes had informed Dr Gurbachan Singh Bachan, Secretary, SGPC, that “the books and documents that were recovered from the Sikh Reference Library, Golden Temple, had been handed over to theCBI by the Army”. The letter of Mr Fernandes was received by the SGPC on May 10. He had advised the SGPC authorities to contact the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, under which the CBI falls, to get the material back”.
Earlier, while responding to a starred question raised by Mr Gurcharan Singh Tohra and Mr Sukhdev Singh Libra on the floor of the Rajya Sabha on December 2, 1998, 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 CBI in July, 1984. The CBI, in turn, returned these documents to authorised representative of the SGPC in October, 1989. A few documents were found “Objectionable and thus destroyed”.
The SGPC and renowned Sikh scholars are of the view that more than 90 per cent material of the Sikh Reference Library was still intact and should be returned to the SGPC immediately. Otherwise, the invaluable material could get destroyed without proper maintenance. Dr Bachan has admitted that some material which was handed over to the SGPC was intact.
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