With the Ministry of Culture formally confirming her extension in a letter to Teen Murti executive council chairman Karan Singh on Wednesday, historian Mridula Mukherjee will stay on as director of the institution for another two years.
The Prime Minister had approved it on Tuesday night in his capacity as Minister of Culture. This is being seen as a strong rebuff for more than 50 scholars — led by Ramachandra Guha — who had petitioned the PM demanding her removal.
Their complaint: a soaring institution had instantly crash-landed after she took charge.
The executive council of Teen Murti had already rejected the charges.
The general view in academic circles is that the petitioners lost because there was nothing concrete in their charges.
Moreover, the prime signatories were themselves in the race for directorship when she was first appointed, hinting the controversy may well have been a grapes-gone-sour story.
That many of the petitioners were NRIs monitoring the library from thousands of miles away has also gone against them.
Another fact that went in Mukherjee’s favour was that the institution is in the midst of a major modernisation drive. Government money worth Rs. 20 crore has already been invested and a change of leadership at the moment would have been counter-productive.
When contacted, Mukherjee simply said: “I am looking forward to completing the ongoing task of modernising the library.”
Some of the petitioners have been dead against the massive digitization drive — including newspapers and 9 million pages of manuscripts — now underway.
In a letter to executive council member Karan Singh, a leading petitioner had condemned it.
“Why should just anyone in a cyber café access history so as to question the highbrow scholar?” the petitioner argued
But the administration retorts that even the British Library has made two million newspaper pages of 19th and 20th century British history accessible on net.
The larger war — it seems — may yet rage on.