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Rakesh Sinha: ‘We need to make an effort to bring Indian manuscripts back’

Rajya Sabha MP Rakesh Sinha said, "The retrieval of the manuscripts can help with India’s soft power."

Written by Esha Roy | New Delhi |
December 11, 2021 8:30:25 am
BJP MP Rakesh Sinha. (Twitter/@RakeshSinha01)

BJP member Rakesh Sinha in Rajya Sabha raised the need to bring back to the country Indian manuscripts languishing in foreign universities and libraries. He spoke to The Indian Express:

What is the issue that you raised today?

In 2003, the National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM) was set up under the Vajpayee regime to unearth and preserve the multitude of manuscripts in the country.. Despite this, a very large number of manuscripts remained scattered not only across the country, but across the world. We need to make an effort to bring these manuscripts back to the country, or at least document and study them and incorporate this knowledge in our education as well as everyday life… The retrieval of the manuscripts can help with India’s soft power.

What kind of manuscripts did India lose?

A large number of files from the National Archives have been lying with the India Office Library in London, such as the Gandhi papers. Our manuscripts are scattered across the world. There are 35,000 Sanskrit manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania and another 30,000 manuscripts at Oxford University. There are manuscripts from India in France, Netherlands and Australia as well…

How can the manuscripts help contemporary India?

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has pointed to moving away from a Euro-centric discourse to an Indo-centric one. Bringing back these manuscripts, studying them, and then disseminating their knowledge can not only do this but actually be the basis of another Indian renaissance… These knowledge
systems can also be of immeasurable value to academia.

What is your demand now?

While the NMM is doing an excellent job in collecting and preserving manuscripts, the numbers are so large that it is not possible for them to do it alone. Universities – public and private as well as national and state universities – must take part in the collection as well as the study. They can do this by setting up coordinated studies with foreign universities. The translation work of manuscripts should also be enhanced. For instance, the Anna library in Tamil Nadu has acquired 72,000 Tamil palm leaf manuscripts, which is excellent news. Apart from this, manuscript centers should be set up across the country.

Which are the sectors in India that can help with unearthed manuscripts?

We have only touched the tip of the iceberg with the manuscripts that we know of or have indexed. There are thousands of unindexed manuscripts in the country, with even small temples keeping such documents without understanding their importance. Temple committees, mosque committees and even gram panchayats should be involved in this endeavour. It should no longer be just a mission but a movement.

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