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Archival Policy of the Indian Government

Archival Policy of the Indian Government

Archival Policy of the Indian

Archival Policy of the Indian Government: Towards Independence (Synopsis of the Foundation Day Address on March 11, 2014, at the National Archives of India) Sabyasachi Bhattacharya It is a privilege to deliver the Foundation Day Address at the National Archives of India. When I was asked by the esteemed Director General of the NAI, Mr. V.Srinivas, to select a topic I chose to speak about the long journey of the Indian Government’s archives towards freedom in 1947. To focus on that theme will allow me not only to participate in the present celebration, but also to report on my recent research on the archival policy of the government of India from 1858 to 1947. In the first place, let me explain what I mean when I say that there was progress towards freedom in that history. I see such a progression in several trends in the history of archiving in India. First, there was a steady progress towards opening up the archives, in place of an early colonial policy to prevent access to the records of the Indian Government. We often forget that the freedom to search and read such records is relatively new. This was a freedom that was first asserted after the French Revolution of 1789 when the archives were opened in Paris. By mid-19 th century it was a freedom enjoyed by citizens in most European countries including England, but it was denied to Indian native subjects. Till the 1920s the records could be read only by the ICS officers and the members of the British Indian bureaucracy. Historians like Sir Jadu Nath Sarkar and nationalist intellectuals like M.G.Ranade had to fight a long battle against the “closed-door” policy at the archives. The freedom to access governmental records was slowly won against the opposition of British officialdom. We must also bear in mind the fact that the history of the freedom struggle in India and the activities of the nationalists and other participants in the freedom struggle were best recorded in the governmental archives. Thus the Imperial Record Office, originally conceived as a collection of departmental documents for the use and guidance of the government officials, served an unintended purpose. On the one hand, it was just a repository of documents of imperial expansion and rule, on the other it preserved 1

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