New Delhi: Within a day of Union Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Nehru Memorial Museum & Library chairman Lokesh Chandra declaring their intention of diluting the salience of India’s first prime minister in the institution which bears his name, saner counsel seems to have prevailed.
A September 3, 2015 release posted on the NMML website now states that the museum will actually increase the emphasis on Nehru and his times in the museum.
As part of the government’s plans to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Jawaharlal Nehru, the statement says “there would be a special focus on the governance of India under Jawaharlal Nehru as the first Prime Minister of India, which has been largely left out in the present exhibition.”
The government-constituted National Implementation Committee has recommended plans to modernise the museum and library “keeping in mind the basic objective of the NMML to spread the ideas of Jawaharlal Nehru and awareness about freedom struggle and history of modern India,” the release states. “Teen Murti Bhavan is the house of Nehru the Prime Minister, and the Museum will focus on his years as Prime Minister as he, along with great colleagues, laid the foundations of post-colonial India. It will draw on the rich NMML archives built up over the last fifty years.”
This apparent U-turn may put to rest the controversy triggered by statements Sharma and Chandra made to the Economic Times on September 2, 2015.
“The museum will be recast as a museum of governance, showcasing contemporary India, including PM Narendra Modi’s campaign for smart cities and the Indian Space Research Organisation’s unmanned flight to Mars,” the paper quoted “people involved in the project” as saying. “Major plans are being drawn up to “revamp” NMML, Culture & Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma told ET.”
On his part, NMML chairman Chandra had said the institution was stuck in the past. “Right now, it is only about the times of Nehru… We have to make the museum relevant to today’s times so that questions on governance in present day are addressed.”
He also said that the NMML should organise more discussions on “present day issues. “Why West Asian scholars have not come here to discuss the perils of ISIS or discuss Modi’s recent visit to the UAE”, he asked.
The NMML statement says the library “will also enhance the intellectual component of governance through national seminars and international conferences, an input that Nehru always considered of high value”.
The statement says the institution’s modernisation plans were approved on June 27, 2015 by the NMML executive council comprising Lokesh Chandra as Chairman, M.J. Akbar as Vice-Chairman and Nitin Desai, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Surya Prakash as members besides the Director, NMML, Financial Adviser and Joint Secretary, Ministry of Culture.
Sharma and Chandra’s comments had caused a furore with senior leaders of the Congress vociferously criticising their alleged plan. One former Congress minister said the move was “crazy” and “typical of the BJP government”. He further went on to state that having never participated in the freedom struggle, the RSS wanted to rewrite history and change the character of the museum