New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry has turned down the request of a history scholar to publish papers culled out of the “Quarterly Survey of Political and Constitutional Position in British India from 1937 to 1947” that could throw light on the penultimate stages of India's struggle for Independence and the drift towards Partition.
Baren Ray, fellow of Indian Council for Historical Research in 1997, discovered the papers from a large body of super secret British documents among the India Office Records in London. Prof Ray had even succeeded in getting the consent of the Home Ministry to get the material published by the Ministry.
He was given a grant of Rs. 20,000 to get the printouts from the microfilm and make them ready for the press so that it could be made readable and made available to researchers. The British Government had declassified the material in 1977.
|While the Ministry is free not to publish the material on its own auspices, with a Freedom of Information Act in force in the country, the Government should not stand in the way of my going ahead with doing the needful with these most important documents.
At the end of a painstaking research and after printouts from microfilms were prepared, Prof Ray submitted the copies to the Home Ministry.
But what has come as a shock to him is that the Ministry has been sitting over the decision to publish the material and the entire matter appears to have been put in cold storage.
“As a researcher who has persevered with this matter since 1988, I feel very strongly that while the Ministry is free not to publish the material on its own auspices, with a Freedom of Information Act in force in the country, the Government should not stand in the way of my going ahead with doing the needful with these most important documents. The Government has not in any way proscribed the material. I request you to kindly return the entire pile of printouts that I had submitted to the Ministry so that I may be able to continue my research as well as take appropriate steps to make their contents known to the concerned scholars in the country,” Prof Ray wrote to the Ministry.
He argued that any scholar with financial resources could go and obtain another copy of the material in London or even another set of printouts. “Why should I be denied possession of this material for which I have spent so much of my physical and mental energy over so many long years?” he said.
In a reply to Prof. Ray on November 4, the Ministry refused to agree to his request on the ground that the Government had given him the grant on the condition that the material prepared by him would be the property of the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Prof Ray contended that the “Quarterly Survey 1937-47” papers could unearth the complete history of the freedom struggle and of all the political process through which the country had passed then.
He said the material was considered so sensitive that it was not available even to the Home Minister of the Interim Government and after the final agreement of June 3, 1947, extreme care was taken to destroy all copies in India. The only copies that remained were those in the India Office in London. However, the Home Ministry has maintained silence over the matter so far.
(The Hindu, Jan 05, 2004)