Academics back museum recast if Nehru not cast aside

  • Ashok Kumar Behera, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Sep 10, 2015 16:25 IST

The NDA government’s plan to revamp the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) is welcome if it means expanding the compass of research on modern and contemporary India without diluting the Nehruvian legacy and distorting the saga of the freedom movement,senior academics said on Wednesday.

The government will overhaul the NMML among 39 institutions and museums to recognise the role of eminent people, not just Nehru, who had contributed to the building of modern India, according to culture minister Mahesh Sharma.

“A recast of the NMML should aim at improving and further expanding literature, photographs and other artifacts pertaining to the contributions of Jawaharlal Nehru and continuation of the Nehruvian tradition,” said Kamal Mitra Chenoy, a JNU proferssor.

Arun K Patnaik, a professor with the University of Hyderabad, said, “As long as the NMML does not stop buying books on Nehru -- for or against -- and dismantle the library space, all add-ons are welcome if they have positive feeders on our national integration work.”

The Centre wants to recast the NMML – located at Teen Murti Bhavan, Nehru’s residence in New Delhi – as a museum to exhibit aspects of governance in contemporary India, including PM Narendra Modi’s smart cities and Mangalyaan success.

“It is patently partisan to link Modi and for that matter Atal Bihari Vajpayee with the Nehruvian legacy. There are other buildings that could better serve the glory of Modi and BJP governance,” said Chenoy.

Calling the sangh parivar’s announcement to recast the NMML as historically ironic, he said, “It was Nehru along with Vallabhai Patel who had banned the RSS after the murder of Gandhiji. Now the RSS is trying to make Nehru virtually an outcaste in the museum and the library dedicated to his work and historical memory.”

On the plans to revamp the library, NMML chairman Lokesh Chandra has reportedly said the place can be a forum where current issues of governance and international problems like the threats of an Islamic state are discussed.

Reacting to the statement, Patnaik said, “If the revamp means no mere study of Nehru which the NMML has been doing excessively, then I welcome initiatives to foster dialogue on all contemporary issues which the NMML chair alludes to.”

Emphasising that Nehru stood for change and dynamism in thought and action, Patnaik said, “After all he (Nehru) was an admirer of vita activa, not vita contemplative. No more studying for the sake of better contemplation only.”

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