Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir – The disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir was ravaged by floods in September, a situation described as the worst calamity to have hit the region in more than a century.
While the flooding killed 281 people and damaged property costing billions of dollars, many remnants of Kashmir’s history, culture and literature were also lost.
Sri Pratap Singh Library in Srinagar, capital city of Indian-administered Kashmir, is one of the oldest libraries in the region. Rare 6th century Gilgit manuscripts made on birchwood were destroyed. “Over 20,000 out of 45,000 books in the library were damaged by the floods. Around 100 rare books in Urdu and Persian, which are impossible to get back, were also damaged,” said Ishrat Majeed, the chief librarian.
The Cultural Academy of Kashmir on the banks of Jhelum River remained submerged for days. The library housed about 250,000 books in 10 different languages of Jammu and Kashmir, but 70 percent were spoiled.
“Before the floods, we had over 1,000 titles of books on cultural history of Jammu and Kashmir, travelogues, flora and fauna, music, art and culture were present in the academy. We had an enviable collection of old dictionaries, encyclopaedias, anthologies and translation of old classics, which are all gone and destroyed now,” said Muhammad Ashraf from the academy.
At the College of Education, books signed by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of India, and Zakir Hussain, the first Muslim president of India, were lost.
“These floods have not only affected our past by damaging our history and cultural books, but it will have an impact as books which would have told our future generations about our culture, art and literature aren’t there any more,” said MS Ilahi, a professor at College of Education.