A decaying trove of knowledge

The Telangana State Archives and Research Institute, that houses books, papers and manuscripts dating back to Mughal era are at the danger of perishing forever unless immediate steps are taken; offici

Published: 19th April 2018 04:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th April 2018 04:20 AM   |  A+A-

The Telangana State Archives and Research Institute lies in a state of neglect, at Tarnaka in Hyderabad | K SATHYA KEERTHI

Express News Service

HYDERABAD: Negligence in the maintenance of the Telangana State Archives and Research Institute is visible even before one steps into it. Located in Tarnaka, visitors have to go through dark passages which clearly haven't been dusted for years now to access archives of over centuries stored here. Cobwebs and paint coming off walls is all that one can see.

In the current digitised world, the library, which is visited by scholars from across the globe, doesn't have even a computer, which could help in cataloguing the books, papers and manuscripts. All those working at the Institute are continuing to do so, mostly due to their passion and respect for research and historical documents.

While the physical space is in such a condition, the danger of manuscripts which date back to the Mughal rule being deteriorated is likely as the life of a single paper is 50 years, when properly maintained, according to one conservationist. While those at the Institute are working hard to catalogue, translate and to an extent digitise these valuable manuscripts, officials pointed out that the government has hardly any interest in preserving them.

A Murali, who was appointed recently as the Director-General of State Archives said that he had sent a proposal costing Rs 20 crore for the upliftment and preservation of manuscripts and the Institute itself. However, the government sanctioned nothing. "On the other hand, the Andhra Pradesh government has allocated Rs 2 crore using which we have started the digitisation process," said the officer.

The Institute has not been bifurcated yet and holds records from the time that dates back to even Marathwada which was earlier part of Hyderabad State, and now in Maharashtra. The digitisation of records began much before the Telugu states bifurcated, but it was stalled a few years ago due to lack of funds and manpower. Also, there are not enough scholars or researchers who can comprehend the manuscripts, some of which are written in old Persian.

With the government freezing recruitment, according to A Murali, the Institute which used to have 182 employees back in 1995, is currently being run with around 35 people, most of them outsourced and appointed on contract basis, say sources. Internal adjustments are made whenever required. For instance, a cataloguer could be given the job of a librarian. The library, which is also in the same premises continues to be a treasure house for scholars from across the globe. However, to find a manuscript or a book for reference might take days as there is no record of the books or catalogues to find them, informed a source.

No recognition for research

Historians and heritage conservationists also believe that the government does not understand the importance of these documents and the need to preserve them. Also, there is hardly any importance given to research in social sciences and history. Sources say that there is a huge community of researchers but their efforts do not get the due or recognition they deserve. While the staffers are of help, and do their best to help researchers, it is not sufficient, they say.

American scholar Benjamin B Cohen from University of Utah, who is a regular visitor to the library for the last 20 years and has published a number of papers on various aspects of the Deccan region, shared that the collection the library holds is priceless. "I have published a book on the Samasthans of Telangana, and a book on social clubs in India. I have two new books coming: one on a Hyderabad scandal, and one on the Wanaparthi Samasthan. For each work, I have found the archive absolutely indispensable. The staff and the director, Zareena Parveen have always been kind," said the scholar.

However, local scholars feel differently and reiterated how there is very little recognition from the State for their work. "Since they do not understand the importance of our work, they do not understand the need to upgrade facilities for the scholars," said one conservationist who is also a member of the library. She said how the community of scholars can be enriched if research is valued and it can also lead to the community lending a hand in maintaining it.

"It then becomes a give and take process and the State will not be burdened as much," she added. Commenting on the infrastructure, another female scholar and even some of the women employees working at the Institute talked about how the washrooms are unwelcoming. "I would prefer to take my books and go home instead of sitting in the beautiful library and feeling the historical ambiance of it," she said.

Women employees working at the institute choose to go home rather than using washrooms at the Institute.

Importance of Institute is undermined: activist

As an institute that has survived for decades, despite all the political and social disturbances, needs to be respected, pointed put Anuradha Reddy, from Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH). "There is no need to reiterate what a treasure house it is. We have the major information on Medieval Deccan, Mughal records and it is also a store house for archival records from Marathwada region which was also part of erstwhile Hyderabad and also parts of Karnataka region. This needs to be recognised and then only the government will realise the need to allocate funds and it can be revived to what it was during the Nizam's reign," she pointed out.

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