Thursday, July 3, 2014

Purushottam Agrawal's query under RTI to Ministry of Home Affairs Regarding Possible Destruction of Historical Records

Here are  the news reports which prompted me to file the RTI detailed below:

Why historians feel the destruction of 1.5 lakh government files is akin to the Taliban destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues

There have been reports in the media suggesting that a huge number of files in the Ministry of Home Affairs have been destroyed, ostensibly in the interest of efficiency and space-management. According to the reports these include the file containing records of the cabinet meeting which took place just before the news of Gandhiji’s assassination was formally announced.

The GOI usually follows a record retention schedule. Moreover in the case of files containing documentation of the historically crucial period just after independence, it must be ensured that the documents must be treated as sacrosanct, and must be preserved as such, change of government notwithstanding. Historians might differ in their interpretations of momentous events like the assassination of Gandhiji (1948) or imposition of emergency (1975), but for any sane debate and contest of ideas, preservation of and access to official documents and records is a must.

Unfortunately, there is not much clarity in the instant case on whether the digital copies of these important files have been made, or if these have been shifted to National Archives or any similar institution. It is also not clear how a historian or any interested citizen can get access to these important documents.

Surely, you would agree, these vital issues concern each and every citizen and also the nation as such. Such documents which contain the raw material of history cannot be allowed to be obliterated.

Keeping this in mind, I have filed an application with the ministry of home affairs under the RTI act. In the RTI, I have sought the following information–

1   1. As per the recent newspaper reports, is it true that a large number of files and documents pertaining to Ministry of Home Affairs have been destroyed in the last few weeks, i.e. after May 20th 2014?

2. Were these files and documents destroyed as per the extant Record Retention Schedules of Government of India?

3. Have the important files and documents been identified and retained?

4. Have the important files of permanent nature been retained in digital form or any other form?

5. Please inform where have the important files and documents of permanent nature been sent

6. Have these files and documents been sent to National Archives of India, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library and other libraries?

7. In case information contained in these important files and documents are to be retrieved in future for study and research purposes, where should one go and find them?

8. Please provide a copy of the order and file noting vide which the instruction for destroying records was issued to the officials of Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India.

see also

Following PM Modi’s directive, home ministry destroys 1.5 lakh files

Sri Lanka, thirty one years after: Burning of the Jaffna Public Library, May 1981

Twenty years after - the destruction of books in Sarajevo, 1992

Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes

NDA government's (1998) brazen attempt to 'revise' Gandhi's Collected Works
Here is the report of the first NDA government's (1998) brazen attempt to 'revise' Gandhi's Collected Works. Hundreds of whimsical deletions and changes were noticed by well-known scholars and Gandhians in India and around the world, who viewed them as an insult to scholarship, and demanded an end to such attempts to play with historical documents. Read the history of the controversy. Tridip Suhrud, now director of Sabarmati Ashram, wrote a detailed analysis of this shameless behaviour in EPW in November 2004. It was only after the defeat of the NDA government that the fraudulently 'revised' edition of the CWMG was withdrawn, in 2005. See more:
Modi says Congress committed 'sin' of partition // The Non-politics of the RSS

Gujarat asked to file report on ‘destroyed records' (2011)