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  • Saving Public Archives




    By Haroon Khalid

    Pakistan’s public archives are failing the country’s people and history, and private archives can only do so much.

    As soon as the British annexed Punjab in 1849, they undertook an extensive study of the newly acquired colony, travelling to every village and gathering information about it, as they had already done in other parts of India. With the help of local translators, British officials collected oral histories explaining each village’s origin; recorded the number of temples, gurdwaras and mosques there; detailed the surrounding land, flora and fauna; and noted the caste composition of every village’s population. Their reports also included information from archaeological surveys around certain villages, along with handmade maps. The information was collected in Urdu, and occasionally in Persian, the former official language that was still spoken by the native elites. The British administration then opened a file for every village, where they collated all related documents. These were the ‘Settlement Reports’.

    Separated by district, the records were kept at the office of the Tehsildar – the district’s revenue officer. In Lahore, the office contained a detailed record of 382 villages that are part of the district today. All these records were burned in the early nineties when the office came under attack by a mob, protesting against the rise of the Shia-Sunni conflict in Pakistan and the government apathy towards it. The office became a symbol of the state, and hence a victim of people’s wrath. As the office burned, so did the records containing precious, century-old information. – See more at: http://himalmag.com/saving-history/#sthash.4kqcJIRw.dpuf

    Read more: http://himalmag.com/saving-history/


    By Sundar Ganesan

    Chronicling the fall and resurrection of the Jaffna Public Library, and mourning all that can never be recovered.

    In 1933, the same year the Nazis burnt large numbers of books that they considered ‘anti-German’, the idea of setting up a library in Jaffna was born. The Jaffna Public Library (JPL) would have celebrated its golden jubilee in 1983 had it not been burned down in 1981. Instead, June 2012 marked the 31st anniversary of that tragedy.

    1933 was a difficult time in Sri Lanka. The economy was slow and unemployment was very high. Amid the gloom, one K M Chellappah, who worked for the district court in Jaffna, circulated an appeal in English and Tamil for “A Central Free Tamil Library in Jaffna”, and approached labourers, unions, teachers, authors, business people and prominent retirees for support. He insisted that the library would house not just a Tamil collection, but would also hold books in other languages. The idea caught on, and soon a seminal meeting of interested individuals passed a resolution agreeing that “a Central Free Tamil Library Association be formed with the original subscribers and others who are present at this meeting as original members of the Association”.

    Read more: http://himalmag.com/requiem-jaffna-library/

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