Amaan Bali: SGPC Committee To Catalogue And Locate Missing Sikh Reference Library Materials

“Sikhs across the globe need answers to the questions. It has been 37 years and we still do not have clarity on what has been returned and what is missing.”

Amaan Bali
June 11, 2021 | 3 min. Read | Original Reporting

It has been 37 years since the Sikh Reference Library was burnt down during the Indian Army’s invasion of the Darbar Sahib Complex and Operation Bluestar. 

The official narrative on the destruction of the Library is that it was destroyed on the night of June 6, 1984. However, eyewitness accounts have narrated a different story. 

Late Joginder Singh Vedanti, who also became Jathedar of the Akal Takht, was present in Harmandir Sahib at the time and he records that trucks were loaded with materials from the Library during the early morning of June 6, 1984. 

Giani Pooran Singh records that the Reference Library was set on fire after the removal of manuscripts, books, and rare documents. In one of his interviews after the Battle of Amritsar, he said that there were no burnt papers in the library, the iron shelves were there but lockers were missing.

There has been ambiguity on what actually happened to the articles that went missing. 

The SGPC has largely stayed silent on the issue of missing materials for the past 37 years. However, in a reply to a petition filed by Satinder Singh, where he quoted the former library director Anurag Singh, the SGPC has cleared that it is looking into the matter. 

Anurag Singh claimed that the army returned some material to the Sikh institution but SGPC failed to inform the Sangat about it. SGPC maintains that there has been no transaction where materials have been returned. It has however constituted a committee to look into the allegations filed by the petitioner. 

It should be noted that this is the third committee since 2003 that has been set up to look into the matter. 

One of the members of the third committee, Kiranjot Kaur, tells me that SGPC has never kept the record straight with respect to the Library post-84. She claims that even though a report is being prepared in consultation with former staffers, there is still a lot of ambiguity on the materials missing and returned. 

Another important and shocking revelation is that there has been no conclusion to the first two committees constituted by SGPC to look into the matter either. Many in the SGPC, who do not want to be named, claim that the organization has not treated the issue on a priority basis.

The last committee meeting, formed back in June 2020, was in April of this year. The present state of the Sikh Reference Library was reviewed and it was decided to prepare a list of items that are missing. It should be noted that even though there are multiple records to indicate what articles are missing, the SGPC still lives in a state of confusion. It was also decided in the meeting to find out what materials were allegedly returned to the library.

Former Secretary, Kulwant Singh has also questioned SGPC for its silence on an issue important to so many in the community.

“Sikhs across the globe need answers to the questions. It has been 37 years and we still do not have clarity on what has been returned and what is missing.”

Another member of the third committee, Amrik Singh, has revealed that there is evidence that some materials have gone missing after it was returned by the state. He said that the culprits will be punished and held accountable, including being labeled as a Panth Doshi.

Kulwant Singh revealed that former librarians, Balbir Singh and Hardeep Singh, have been questioned and that registers with logs have been locked for the probe into the issue. 

The third committee has promised to get down to the issue and reveal the details to Sikhs within six months.

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Amaan Bali is born and raised in Kashmir. He is an entrepreneur and author of the upcoming book, “Growing up on the right side of Kashmir History”. You can find him on Twitter at @amaanbali.


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