29-DEC-2015: Dr Syed Ziaur Rahman, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, AMU, was recently invited to attend the meeting of manuscripts experts to consider various issues of National Mission for Manuscripts (NMM), an autonomous organization under Ministry of Culture, Government of India.
The meeting was called by Mr Narendra Kumar Sinha, Cultural Secretary, Minister of Culture, New Delhi.
After participating in the meeting, Dr Rahman, lamented that the true knowledge of India is basically contained in the manuscripts wealth. He added that the subject area covered is as wide as can be imagined by any well-read person.
"It is generally believed that Indian literature consists of spiritual and philosophical texts and literary works, but few people know that there is a vast scientific literature in this country that consists of texts on Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Architecture, Metallurgy, Water conservation, Management, Economics, State-craft, Animal husbandry, Agriculture, Ayurveda, Unani, Music and Fine Arts," said Dr Rahman.
Dr Rahman further said that to harvest meaningful knowledge base of India, it is imperative to preserve manuscripts in traditional and modern technological formats so that it is accessible to scholars and researchers.
He said that the experts in the meeting pointed out that the conservation of manuscripts in repositories and in custody of individuals needs to be looked at holistically.
"Further, a system needs to be devised and put in place, which will ensure scientific conservation of manuscripts," said Dr Rahman adding that meaningful and productive use of manuscripts depends on access to scholars and researchers.
While lamenting that there is no uniform access policy, Dr Rahman said that the permission of use is arbitrary and varies from one state to another and also in institutions within a state.
"Since the knowledge base contained in the manuscripts is national heritage it is felt that a well-defined national policy needs to be in place for access to the knowledge base," said Dr Rahman.
Stating that manuscripts are covered by the antiquities Act of 1972, created to deal with archaeological heritage of the country, Dr Rahman said that the detailed coverage that the manuscripts need is not there in the Act.
He informed that the NMM had created a draft of an act for manuscripts in the year 2011, which needs to be considered to make it comprehensive and effective.
"Since, the manuscript wealth of the country has been neglected for a very long time due to lack of an effective system in place, it was felt in the meeting that any delay in addressing the issue will cause irretrievable damage," said Dr Rahman informing that a committee has been formulated under the chair of Prof Dipti Tripathi, former director, NMM to re-look the draft and submit a report before the Culture Minister.
Dr Rahman further said that the NMM has digitized 2.11 lakh manuscripts from all over the country, but these digitized images is restricted due to the right for permission of use resting with the holders of the manuscripts. He added that a well thought, national policy and Act in this matter would do away with arbitrariness in giving permission for use.