Delhi’s first Partition Museum likely to be ready by August this year
Letters, certificates, clothes, utensils, and photographs belonging to those who migrated to Delhi from across the border during the 1947 India-Pakistan partition will be on display at the Capital’s first Partition museum, which is likely to throw open its doors in August this year. The inauguration of the museum is set to coincide with the state government’s ongoing Freedom@75 celebrations — announced by the Delhi government in its annual budget last month to celebrate 75 years of Independence next year.
The museum will be set up at the Dara Shikoh Library Building in Kashmere Gate and will be managed by The Arts and Cultural Heritage Trust (TACHT), which has the experience of having set up a similar museum in Amritsar. The trust adopted the heritage building inside Ambedkar University campus as a part of Central government’s Adopt a Heritage initiative on March 15 this year.
Kishwar Desai, chair at TACHT, said that the project, tentatively named ‘Dastaan-e-Dilli’, will contain three museums related to the history of Delhi and the changes brought about by events and individuals. While the first one – on the partition – is expected to be ready in August, a second museum on Mughal prince Dara Shikoh, and a third on medieval and ancient antiquities from the Delhi state archaeology department will also come up later, Desai said.
The trust, which calls the partition museum a “people’s museum”, said it had collected various artifacts, including the bare basics that people managed to bring with them — like clothes, utensils, letters, documents, photographs and certificates among others — while hurriedly trying to cross the border during the partition, which some estimates say left 2 million people dead and another 10 to 20 million displaced.
For instance, a more than a century-old land deed — scripted in Urdu — giving details of the Late Lala Bishandas’ land in Jhang, Pakistan, will be on display at the museum. The family migrated to Delhi during the partition, like millions of others.
A certificate of appreciation from Mahatma Gandhi awarded to a contractor Lala Beli Ram for planning Gandhi Square in Lahore, Scandal Point in Shimla, the Clock tower in Lyallpur (now known as Faisalabad in Pakistan), Gulab Devi Memorial hospital in Lahore, will also be included in the museum.
“Within these artifacts are the stories of people who were forced to migrate overnight when the country was divided. It serves as a lesson that we should not divide and rule. The museum will also have inspirational stories of people who survived and those who helped them when they returned to this country after losing almost everything,” said Desai.
The heritage site will also be developed as a cultural hub. “We plan to have cultural performances, a cafeteria, and several galleries. The plan is to have a large cultural hub at the heritage site with indoor and outdoor performance venues,” Desai said. “We would definitely welcome engagement from students of Ambedkar University, which is inside the campus and even those from Delhi University which is not very far.”