Spare Nehru Library for nation's sake

Spare Nehru Library for nation's sake

The BJP government’s move to change the face and character of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) in Delhi, as announced by the ministry of culture, is another attempt to downgrade a national legacy which the present government is not comfortable with. NMML is an iconic institution which facilitates study of and research in the country’s freedom struggle and houses a museum, library, a planetarium and a children’s centre. It is housed in Teen Murti Bhavan which was the official residence of the first prime minister and the NMML was started after his death in 1964. The government wants to give it a ‘contemporary look’ by recasting it as a museum of governance, showcasing modern India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s smart cities project, ISRO’s unmanned flight to Mars etc. While the present government’s projects and achievements of the country in scientific fields may be recorded or studied, the question is why established institutions set up for other purposes should be changed for that.

The answer, as many suspect it, is that the institution bears the name of Jawaharlal Nehru and is identified with the worldview and intellectual heritage asso-ciated with him. But it is wrong to think of NMML as a Nehru study centre. It is a place where serious and scholarly studies of modern Indian history with a special focus on freedom struggle are undertaken. It is a national institute for research in social sciences and has a large collection of historical material including the writings of Gandhiji and papers of leaders like Rajaji, Sarojini Naidu and Jayaprakash Narayan. It is stated that the government wants to expand the scope of NMML by including in it the writings and contributions of Hindu nationalist leaders too. But they and the RSS, which is the ideological mentor of the government, did not form part of the mainstream freedom movement. Why can’t a separate institution be set up for their study?

The government and the RSS have always tried to demonise Nehru and to find fault with his legacy. They do not share the idea of India that Nehru had. The fact that members of the Nehru family lead the Congress party could be another reason for the maligning of Nehru. But narrow politics and ideology should not distort history and national memory. Nehru’s place in India’s history cannot be taken away by virtually killing NMML and changing it into something else. It is an autonomous institution which has established itself as a major centre of learning. It should be left to itself.
DH Newsletter Privacy Policy Get top news in your inbox daily
GET IT
Comments (+)