Battle of Patparganj to Bahadur Shah Zafar’s trial: Delhi’s journey since 1803, at the click of a mouse

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Article by Gulam Jeelani, Originally published in Hindustan Times online edition, on Dec 14, 2017

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A 100-member team of archivists is digitising over 10 crore documents to prevent further loss. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in two years.

On March 9, 1858, a British court declared Delhi’s last king, Bahadur Shah Zafar, guilty of rebellion, treason and murder before exiling him to Rangoon in the then British-controlled Burma. The trial was approved and confirmed a month later by N Penny, major general commanding, Meerut division.

One hundred and fifty nine years later, the 42-day trial conducted at Diwan-e-Khaas of the Red Fort by British prosecutor Major F Harriott lies preserved word for word at the Delhi archives in the form of a hardbound book comprising 262-pages.

Apart from the handwritten trial papers, the Delhi archives is a repository of over 10 crore rare documents comprising Mughal firmans (imperial orders), maps, land acquisition award statements, jail records, manuscripts and government orders narrating the historical and political journey of Delhi since 1803.

So far accessible to only researchers, the treasure trove will soon be just a click away for those interested in the history of the national capital. An ambitious ‘digitisation and microfilming of archival records’ project started by Delhi government is underway with the target of converting 4 crore documents in the first phase by 2020.