© 2011 Maitreya Centre for Eco-Justice and Eco-Spirituality

The Centre for Education and Documentation in Mumbai was founded sometime in the late 1970s, amid a host of solicitors’ offices in an inconspicuous side street behind Regal Cinema. For a graduate student in the late 1980s looking for information on recent social and political events, there were few resources one could find – nobody kept old newspapers and the newspaper offices and libraries either could not or did not help, I am not sure. Government offices practiced the arts of concealment in all manner of ways, and treated information seekers as potential troublemakers, who had to be discouraged, thwarted or misled. And in this age of frenzied archive creation, one has to say, there was no internet then. What was the archive before today’s archive fever, for someone not focused on India’s colonial period?

Well, there were a few resource centres that everyone pointed me to, NGOs where news clippings were maintained and catalogued across an extraordinary range of topics and themes, where relevant pamphlets and other literature were collected, including often hard to find independent, privately printed reports on various social and political issues. The Centre for Education and Documentation was probably the best of them, and it is the longest surviving of all, certainly in Mumbai, that I know of. In a small space, crammed with students and research scholars, shelves from floor to ceiling lined with boxes of clippings and other literature, people took notes, called for files, and were served by dedicated and modestly paid staff, all of whom understood that information was not only a valuable commodity to be hoarded, but a public service as well.

Today CED continues to thrive, as a provider not only of clippings, but a host of information and research services. The infra-archival culture of the ’80s and ’90s, of students and scholars using independently supported organizations that grew out of left movements, is now probably a relic of history in itself – and its memory deserves to be preserved.

—Arvind Rajagopal, Professor of Media, Culture and Communication, New York University; Editorial Board member of Anthem Global and Communication Studies