Genuinely, there was massive concern over the flood impacting the historic Sri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum at Raj Bagh. It is home to certain items that offer glimpses of Kashmir’s 2000 years old history. A number of citizens did a lot of loud-thinking on the issue and managed getting attention from the highest quarters in India. Salim Beg of INTACH fame, now member of National Commission for Monuments, had a detailed talk on the subject in Delhi’s Press Club.
Finally, New Delhi sent a team of experts to assess damage caused to 79, 595 artefacts. After lot of investigation and assessment it is now public knowledge that experts believe 90 per cent of the artefacts, excluding nearly 1000 jewellery pieces and decorative items made of papier-mache, can be restored.
That most of it is restored is a great relief. But what about the efforts of restoring the assets that pertain to our contemporary history. Srinagar is home to two major centres which has massive collection of newspapers pertaining to last most than 100 years. The Research and Reference section of the state information department near the Government Press on M A Road is a major repository of the documents and the documentation vital to the era of pre-partition freedom movement and most of the post-partition history. This section is the richest newspaper collection that Srinagar could boast of.
Books apart, this centre had newspaper clippings of most vital incidents of history and most of the popular newspapers preserved fully. Some of the great books on Kashmir might not have been written had this centre not been there. Though this centre was lacking the official support that it once boasted of, it still had the best collection on contemporary history. With the flood water inundating it completely, there is nothing that could have been saved. Can it now be salvaged? Nobody knows and there is no concern being exhibited either by the government or by the concerned citizenry of Kashmir. Perhaps they love distant history much more than the era they live in!
The second centre is a private one. It is the local office of the Jammu based publication Kashmir Times. For the last more than two decades, this office has been the source of archives of this newspaper. It had almost every newspaper from early 1980s and that was perhaps why every researcher of any sort would ensure staying there for a few days to get the history right. All the archival files properly hard bound were stored in the ground floor and the flood water remained in it for more than 48 hours. Though the management of the newspaper has been trying its bit, everybody is unsure if at all this archive can be restored and made it worth the use again. Its loss is key to the loss that first class research on Kashmir will suffer in coming days.