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Mob ransacks Bhandarkar Institute, destroys rare manuscripts

Pune Jan. 5. A mob, allegedly owing allegiance to "Sabhaji Brigade" of the Maratha Mahasangh, "destroyed" thousands of rare manuscripts and other priceless articles at the Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute here to protest alleged "disparaging" remarks made against Chhatrapati Shivaji by the British historian, James W. Lane, in his book `Shivaji: Hindu King in Islamic India'. The mob of about 150 persons barged into the institute, snapped the telephone lines, ransacked the cupboards, tore thousands of books and damaged the writings on palm leaves, rare artefacts and old photographs. The mob also took away several rare books, police said, adding that 70 persons had been arrested.

The Additional Commissioner of Police, Mahesh Gauri, who visited the institute, told reporters that police would take stern action against the culprits.

Asked why police could not come in time, Mr. Gauri said the mob had snapped the telephone lines and prevented people from informing them. The mob was not from Pune and its members had come from other districts of Maharashtra. When the institute was founded in 1917, the then Government of Bombay handed over its entire collection of 20,000 manuscripts to it. It has been looking after the preservation, lending out and cataloguing of these manuscripts.

In 1919, the institute also undertook an exercise to prepare and publish a critical edition of the Mahabharata. This project, containing 19 volumes and with 13,000 demi quarto pages, was completed in 1966 and this historic event was formally announced by the then President, S. Radhakrishnan, on September 22, 1966.

Published by the Oxford University Press, Mr. Lane's book has been in the eye of a storm in the past few months for the remarks against Shivaji. The mob seems to have targeted the institute because Mr. Lane had credited Dr. Srikant Bahulkar, member of the institute's managing committee, along with a few others of the institute, in his book. — PTI

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