As the newly elected members of the Telangana and residual Andhra Pradesh state assemblies prepare to take office today, researchers and cultural activists are alarmed at the possible division of valuable manuscripts and records stored in two archives in Hyderabad.

A petition being circulated by scholars expresses concern for the collections currently housed in the Andhra Pradesh State Archives and Research Institute and the Oriental Manuscript Library in Hyderabad. They fear that overenthusiastic officials at the two will segregate the holdings in an arbitrary fashion.

The Andhra Pradesh Oriental Manuscripts Library, located in the premises of Osmania University in Hyderabad, was started by the Andhra Pradesh government in 1967 to preserve rare manuscripts. The core of its collection comes from the Asafiya State Central Library, established in 1891 by the Nizam of Hyderabad.

The Andhra Pradesh State Archives and Research Institute has an even more venerable past. Begun in 1893, it stores official historical records from the Mughal empire, dating from Shah Jahan, to documents from the old Hyderabad state of the Nizams. Historians say that no other library in the country has such a vast array of petitions, royal orders, memorandums and bills.

Now that the state is being divided, the fate of these resources is unclear. Part of the alarm seems to have arisen after M Vedakumar, president of the Telangana Cultural Society, made a visit to the institution recently.

“These are the richest archives in country, and well-known across the world,” he said. “Now we observe that they are dividing documents within the premises. It has not yet been decided to divide the files or to bifurcate them, but they are throwing a lot of unwanted things in the corridor.”

This is stoutly denied by Dr Zareena Parveen, director of the Andhra Pradesh State Archives and Research Institute, who is herself a scholar of Persian. “I am a Telangana person,” she said. “How can I destroy my own records? I have not even received any official order.”

The confusion seems to have arisen because APSARI is currently digitising its records. As they arrange the documents by district, some of these documents are lying in boxes, according to P Anuradha Reddy, convenor of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage in Greater Hyderabad, who recently conducted an official inspection of APSARI.

Even so, there is little legal clarity on the position of either of the archives in the coming months. The Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, passed by the previous Lok Sabha in March, made a provision that all institutions listed in its tenth schedule, including Oriental Manuscripts Library and APSARI, would continue to provide services to residents of the other state, for as long as mandated either by the two states, or by the central government. No decision has yet been taken on this.

“How do you separate Mughal records which belong to the Hyderabad state?” asked Reddy. “It is ridiculous because we have records of ancient history and culture which cannot be separated.”

This is a particular cause of irritation for many Telangana supporters who have worked with the two institutions over the years. They say that the Andhra Pradesh government has no right to the archives because they were built by the Nizams, whose capital, Hyderabad, will be the seat of Telangana's government. Andhra Pradesh, they claim, has traditionally neglected both institutions.

Former Oriental Manuscripts Library director Jayadhir Tirumala Rao noted that at one point, the annual budget of the library was just Rs 3 lakh – just enough, he said, for water, electricity, and one small vehicle.

“When Chandrababu [Naidu] was the chief minister, he said history was a waste,” said Rao. “He began to monitor the budget, stopped sanctioning, and our income went down. So I tied up with National Institute for Manuscripts at New Delhi, and somehow managed to bring it to Rs 2-3 crores.”

The signatories to the petition hope that the next ten years will be put to use to effectively catalogue all their holdings instead of rushing to divide them

“When Hyderabad state was bifurcated in 1956, records relating to Andhra Pradesh from the Madras Presidency were transferred to our archives,” said APSARI director Parveen. “It is possible that we could follow the same system.”