Museum of PMs bid to diminish Nehru

Museum of PMs bid to diminish Nehru

A view of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) in the Teen Murti complex in New Delhi. PTI

The Modi government’s plan to convert the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) into a museum for all prime ministers of the country is wrong and ill-motivated. The NMML is housed in Teen Murti Bhavan, where Jawaharlal Nehru lived during his tenure as first prime minister. It was instituted as a memorial to him by his successor Lal Bahadur Shastri, who declined to occupy the premises as PM. It houses a research and reference centre that has archives and records of the freedom struggle. It is an appropriate memorial for Nehru, stalwart freedom fighter, a visionary and the primary architect of modern India. The move now is to set up a “modern museum’’ there to showcase the “life and contributions of all other prime ministers and the evolution of India’s democracy’’ and to “make it relevant to modern times’’. Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, among others, has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, requesting him to drop the move, but the government seems to be going ahead with the proposal.  

The move is clearly a part of the BJP’s and the Sangh Parivar’s agenda to erase the history that they do not like and to rewrite it to suit their ideas. For years, they have denounced Nehru and his legacy. Prime Minister Modi has never once mentioned Nehru’s name in his speeches praising freedom fighters, except to impute motives and failures to him. There have been attempts to place other leaders like Sardar Patel on a higher pedestal than Nehru. The names of even leaders of the Jan Sangh have been promoted merely as a way to denigrate Nehru. A portrait of Nehru in the NMML has been replaced with a photograph of the Jan Sangh ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay. No effort has been spared to run a malicious campaign against Nehru, not only belittling his contributions but also claiming that he was responsible for all the country’s ills, including  Partition.

This politics is at the root of the plan to revamp Nehru Memorial. There can be no opposition to building a museum in memory of other prime ministers. But the insistence that it should be located only in Teen Murti Complex is intended to diminish Nehru’s image to that of just another prime minister. No-one could claim that space cannot be found in Delhi for other memorials. Nehru’s contribution to the freedom struggle, his vision of modern India and the secular and democratic foundation he laid for the nation ensure that he stands head and shoulders above all prime ministers since. That legacy cannot be erased, as former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself acknowledged in his tribute to Nehru. The government should drop its mischievous plan and let the Nehru Memorial remain as it is. 

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