Monday, 05 January , 2004,
Pune: Internationally renowned Bhandarkar Oriental Research Institute (BORI) on Monday was vandalised and around 18,000 books and 30,000 rare manuscripts damaged by activists of the ‘Sambhaji Brigade’, a sister organisation of the Maratha Mahasangh.
Around 150 activists reached the institute at around 1115 hrs protesting the ‘objectionable’ reference to Shivaji given by scholar Shrikant Bahulkar in James Lynd’s book on the great Martha warrior and broke windowpanes, electrical fittings and 18 huge portraits of renowned scholars, including that of BORI R G Bhandarkar.
Copper plates belonging to the 11th century, an idol of Munda Katta Ganesh (Ganesh with his head cut off), an album of the Nizam dated 1935, spearheads, important curios and a calendar disc have been stolen and rare manuscripts torn.
Additional Commissioner of Police MS Maheshgauri told reporters the ‘Sambhaji Brigade’ was responsible for this act and around 71 activists had been rounded up in this connection. “Its difficult to estimate the loss but it is the country’s loss. The staff of the institute was hit by chairs and most of them were not allowed to go out and even telephone cables were broken.”
When asked what action would be taken against the activists, Maheshgauri said it depended on the complaint. “‘We can consider this a ‘dacoity’ under Section 395 of the Indian Penal Code as they have stolen rare articles and other things.”
The incident has shocked scholars and researchers from all over. “The extent of damage is difficult to state at this point but the loss to our heritage cannot be measured,” said a tearful researcher and former BORI Secretary Mohan Gopal Dhadphale.
Around 20 cupboards, 30,000 manuscripts, idols of Ganesh and Saraswati have been broken. “Kaunse se adhar pe ye vidhan kiya” (what prompted this destruction?) asked 85-year-old Madhukar Anantrao Mahendale, Sanskrit scholar and researcher presently compiling the cultural index of the Mahabharata.
Another scholar NB Marathe, who is assisting Mahendale, said “We can only shed tears on this act. We are simply shocked to see all this”. The institute has been the source for many important researches and scholars from India, Europe and other countries studying different aspects of ‘Indology’. Scholars from countries such as the UK, US, France, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand and Germany draw heavily from its library.
Works of renowned scholars like Killhorn, Kathote, Ghate and Bhandarkar himself have been destroyed. The State Government had also given many manuscripts under the institute’s ‘Manuscripts Mission’ for care and preservation.