The missing chapter of 1984: Book by book, Sikh Reference Library struggles to restore glory

Turning a new leaf: Rare manuscripts and other texts allegedly taken away by army have not been returned despite legal m...

Reduced to ashes 34 years ago during Operation Bluestar that the Indian Army carried out against Sikh militants in the Golden Temple complex, Sikh Reference Library is struggling to rebuild itself. The key fight is for recovery of rare manuscripts and documents taken away allegedly by the army.

Established by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) in 1946, the library, adjoining Golden Temple’s deodhi (entry gate) from the Atta Mandi side, lost its precious repository of rare manuscripts of Guru Granth Sahib, original hukamnama (edict) records of the gurus, besides other literature, as the building was burnt. While army authorities maintained the library caught fire during exchange the battle with militants who had taken shelter on the premises of the shrine, SGPC says the army deliberately set the library on fire after taking rare material away.

The issue hangs fire even as June 6 marks the anniversary of the 1984 operation that is considered a dark day by many in Sikh circles and beyond.

There have been reports that those library contents were confiscated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), but no progress has been made despite a case in the high court too....


Digitisation on

The library is now headed for a digital step, which will help counter any future loss. SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal said more than 15% of the collections have been digitised since 2008.

The SGPC had assigned the project to a private agency, which did not work properly; it restarted work on its own in 2013. Besides appointing technical experts, it set up a studio in the library that has two cameras and a scanner besides other equipment. The process is on six days a week, 10am to 5pm, and turns six books into PDF format everyday. Of the 4,500-odd documents that have been digitised, 800 are general manuscripts and 300 are copies of Guru Granth Sahib....

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