Looking for Nehru in the new museum

Formally thrown open to the public on April 21, Pradhanmantri Sangrahalay has very little of the first PM. Isn’t there an entire memorial devoted to him?

Looking for Nehru in the new museum

Saiyed Zegham Murtaza

The Nehru Memorial Museum is still there and so are the Nehru Memorial Library, the Nehru Planetarium and the Nehru Memorial Fund. Yet much has changed at Teen Murti Bhavan, the residence of the first Prime Minister of India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

While a new shining and inviting structure has come up behind the main building, the first Prime Minister who served for 17 years has received barely a passing mention in the new Pradhanmantri Sangrahalay. A portrait of Nehru is there. Also, a quote from one of his speeches and the important dates from his life. But that’s about all.

Why hasn’t Nehru merited a gallery of his own in the new museum when there are galleries occupied by even short-term PMs like Chandra Shekhar, IK Gujral, Deve Gowda and even former caretaker Prime Minister Gulzarilal Nanda?

“There is so much about Nehru in the old building,” explains an official. “Go back to the reception and ask for Nehru; you will be guided to the old building.”

In a few years from now, how many visitors will specifically ask for Nehru and be guided to the old building, one wonders.

What is also glaring in the new museum is the selective view of history. At the gallery devoted to PV Narasimha Rao, any mention to the demolition of the Babri Mosque is conspicuously missing. It finds no mention among the important events during his tenure as PM. But the exodus of Kashmiri Pandits is prominently mentioned in the gallery devoted to VP Singh’s tenure. “Hindus were asked to accept Islam or to leave the Valley,” reads the citation.

The old Nehru Memorial building however has been used to accommodate both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Narendra Modi. The last two rooms on the left side of the first floor are now used for an audio visual and interactive show on the Independence struggle and Partition of India. On the right, gifts received by Modi and Vajpayee have occupied considerable space in the Toshakhana.

Entry fee for the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya is Rs. 100 for Indian citizens, if bought online. Offline it costs Rs. 110. If you want to have a digitized message signed by your favourite Prime Minister, you pay Rs. 20, and for a video of a virtual walk with your favourite PM, pay Rs. 20 more. Mercifully, you can get signature of Nehru also here.

Foreigners pay much more while children can avail of a discount. Cost of an audio guide is included in the entry fees.

Multimedia screens and video-walls, interactive kiosks, kinetic sculptures etc. have undoubtedly added to the appeal of the new museum.

Despite the scorching summer in Delhi, with the mercury shooting up to 45 degree Celsius in April-end, over a thousand people have been visiting it daily. The project is said to have cost around Rs. 230 crore.

(This was first published in National Herald on Sunday)

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Published: 07 May 2022, 3:07 PM