On August 15,1947,the then Chinese President,Chiang Kai-shek,sent a telegram to the Prime Minister of India,His Excellency Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru,conveying his warm congratulations on the glorious and monumental achievement in which you and Mahatma Gandhi have played such an eminent and noble part… on this auspicious occasion when the people of India celebrate the dawn of a new era of freedom…
Thanking President Kai-shek for your message on the occasion of India attaining Independence,Pandit Nehru wrote back,The old bonds will grow stronger between a free India and China to the mutual benefit of our respective people and for the advancement of world peace,democracy and freedom.
Even as the telegraph is set to end its services in India from July 15,a library in Delhi still keeps such authentic fragments of history. Maintaining all government communications since 1947 and the rarest of rare material,not available elsewhere in the country,is a library that not many know of.
The Press Information Bureaus (PIB) information centre,which has not changed its Connaught Place address since its inception in 1955,is a goldmine for researchers. There is no fee to either access or go through the material here.
The library has bound volumes of broadcasting talks of Mohd Ali Jinnah from 1947,Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and other prominent leaders. Bound volumes of treaties since Independence with China,Bangladesh and Sri Lanka,and those regarding the Indo-Pak Partition and the Indo-Pak wars can also be found here, librarian Shakila Dilkusha said.
The library also maintains an archive of all the leading English and Hindi national newspapers in bound volumes.
After all,how many would have read,or even considered getting access to,an August 15,1947,message to the Indian Press by Lady Mountbatten.
During the past five months,I have been able to see for myself what a valuable contribution the press has made to the great events we are now celebrating,and I have also been most impressed by the space and treatment given to all activities affecting the health,education and social welfare of the people…,reads her message archived here.
In the first official release of the PIB on August 15 about the first formal Cabinet meeting,an appeal was made to the people of India. The release was signed by all members of the Cabinet.
…Our first act on assuming charge of the government of free India today is to make earnest appeal to all our people to put an end to violence in every shape and form… For,though Pakistan may be separated from India by political boundaries,the essential spiritual unity of the country,like its geographic unity,cannot and should not be broken up… We are a free people today. Let us act then as free men and women.
These and many more rare historical documents are to be found in the midst of decades-old decaying papers. It is hard to ignore the pungent smell of old paper even as it threatens to crumble in your hands at the first touch.
Officials in the PIB said the government has now approved digitisation of about two lakh pages in the 12th five-year plan.
Paramjit Singh Sahni,65,a medico-legal researcher,has been visiting the library almost every day for several years now.
While he loves to call the library his legal wife,he recalls the time when it was used for press conferences and to screen movies on Saturdays. In his hands was the 1978 Shah Commission Report. Now this is a very rare document that cant be found elsewhere. I am working on a paper on the Emergency, Sahni said,holding up pages where it is remarked that The Indian Express was a positively hostile newspaper during those dark days.