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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

Mystery over missing manuscripts from Golden Temple, books deepens

The mystery has deepened with one of the library’s former directors alleging failure of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in preserving the repository after the operation 35 years ago.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 19, 2019 12:18 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
A view of the building of Sikh Reference Library at Golden Temple in Amritsar
A view of the building of Sikh Reference Library at Golden Temple in Amritsar (HT File Photo )

Damaged during Operation Bluestar carried out by the army in the first week of June 1984 to flush Sikh militants out of the Golden Temple complex, the Sikh Reference Library, a home to precious repository of books, manuscripts and scriptures on the premises of the supreme Sikh shrine, is again in the news over some missing rare articles.

The mystery has deepened with one of the library’s former directors alleging failure of the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in preserving the repository after the operation 35 years ago.

Library’s former director Anurag Singh, who worked from November 4, 2008, to January 4, 2009, claimed that some of the articles which are now being termed as missing were returned by the army to the SGPC. His claim has attracted the attention of the Sikh circles worldwide which want the truth to be out. Here, Hindustan Times explains the issue and the row around it.


Established by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in 1946, the library, adjoining Golden Temple’s deori (entry gate) from the Atta Mandi side, had precious repository of rare manuscripts of Guru Granth Sahib and other Sikh scriptures, including Dasam Granth and ‘janam sakhis’, original ‘hukamnamas’ (edicts) issued by the gurus, besides rare paintings, documents and literature. The rare literature of other religions was also preserved there.

“Apart from Gurmukhi, scriptures in Persian, Arabia and Tibetan were also kept in the library before 1984,” reads a research piece authored by noted Sikh scholar late Shamsher Singh Ashok.


There are different takes on how the library lost its repository during the army operation. Many people say that the library was set on fire by the army once it completed the operation and a considerable number of articles were gutted. Also, there are claims that a sizeable number of articles was taken away by the army as there were apprehensions of seditious material.

Others say that the army had set a portion of this library on fire in which some shelves carrying not-so-important papers and newspapers were burnt, and the rare articles, which are missing now, were taken away by the army. “As my residence was near the Golden Temple, I came to know that the library’s building was safe till June 6, but the material had been removed from it. The army set the building on fire at 10am on June 7,” said Hardeep Singh, the lone survivor staffer of the library in 1984.


Anurag Singh recently came up with the evidence to support his claim that the army had returned the items three months after the operation and the SGPC officials received them as per the receipt dated 29/09/1984. “185 old handwritten saroops of Guru Granth Sahib were also handed over which have now gone missing from the library,” he said.

Sharing some documents of the library on Facebook, he also asked the SGPC about the other documents returned by the government. He alleged that some of the rare holy ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth were sold out in foreign countries. He claimed that same happened to 28 ‘hukamnamas’ (edicts) of the Gurus.


After a Punjabi newspaper published what was claimed by the former directer, the SGPC came under fire from different segments of the community which demanded the truth be brought to fore. As a result, the apex gurdwara body called a meeting of its incumbent and former officials and noted Sikh personalities on June 13 and later constituted a five-member committee comprising former SGPC presidents Kirpal Singh Badungar and Bibi Jagir Kaur, former SGPC secretary Dalmegh Singh, Dr Amar Singh from Guru Nanak Dev University and SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh to inquire into the status of the articles returned by the Union government. The panel will also examine if any of the rare ‘saroops’ of Guru Granth Sahib was sold as being alleged by the former director. “Let’s see what the SGPC committee comes out with,” said Anurag Singh.


Though the SGPC revealed some figures regarding the missing items after the June 13 meeting, according to which 307 rare handwritten ‘birs’ of Guru Granth Sahib and 11,107 rare books and manuscripts are still missing from the library and the gurdwara body has not received them yet, it could not produce any record of the items returned by the army — 205 handwritten ‘saroops’ of Guru Granth Sahib, 807 books and rare manuscripts and one ‘hukamnama’ (edict issued by Guru).

This deepened the mystery and brought the gurdwara body under fire as it failed to maintain the record of the items returned by the army 35 years ago and resultantly it had to constitute the probe panel. The Sikh segments term this as gross negligence and insincerity on SGPC’s part in safeguarding the precious items returned by the government. This is also a fact that the library has now larger number of total manuscripts, books and other literature, which have been donated by the people after 1984.

First Published: Jun 19, 2019 12:18 IST

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