What would Jawaharlal Nehru have thought of an event at Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) that recognised and felicitated cow vigilantes? Systematically, over the last four years, the Modi Government has dismantled NMML as an important centre of scholarship and historical research. While Nehru remains the only Prime Minister, besides Indira Gandhi, to have participated in the freedom struggle, the Modi government has sought to ‘democratise’ NMML by embarking on a ‘Museum of Prime Ministers’ at Teenmurti. And while one of the BJP appointees, Swapan Dasgupta, put up a note that NMML should be more about research and less about ‘commemoration’, the institution under the Ministry of Culture is bent more on commemoration than serious scholarship and research.
Since 2014, the BJP-led government, through its Ministry of Culture, has been running NMML with a single purpose: how to undermine Nehru from the Museum and Library established in his memory and dedicated to research and scholarly work around him and his concerns.
Nehru’s memory has been attacked in two ways. First, the authorities went about removing visible signs of Nehru from Teenmurti, the NMML campus. One of the first acts of the new management was to remove the photograph of Nehru and replace it with a photograph of RSS ideologue Deen Dayal Upadhyay.
The large canvas picture of Nehru’s final journey adorning the walls opposite the auditorium too was then removed. Then NMML served an eviction notice (stayed by the court) to the Nehru Memorial Fund, which, apart from governing the Nehru Fellowships, was also bringing out the selected works of Nehru.
At a more substantial level, NMML has deliberately not organised anything directly related to Nehru on any of the important days connected to the first Prime Minister. On the other hand, the other foundational principle of NMML, the national movement, has given way to strategic and geo–security studies, work already being done by a host of lobbying organisations like the India Foundation run by Ram Madhav, whereas the present Director of NMML, Shakti Sinha, was presumably engaged in similar work.
Here are a few pointers to how the operation has proceeded so far:
• In 2015, the Culture ministry forced the then Director, Dr Mahesh Rangarajan, to resign on ‘personal grounds’ after charging that his appointment in 2014 till the age of superannuation was irregular.
• In September, 2016, the government appointed retired IAS Shakti Sinha, who had served as Private Secretary and Joint Secretary in the PMO of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, as Director, NMML, after modifying the requirement of being a “scholar or a writer” to being a scholar, writer or administrator”. This led to the resignation by Pratap Bhanu Mehta as a member of the Executive Committee.
• The vacancy caused by Mehta’s resignation was sought to be filled up in October, 2018, two years later, by inducting TV news anchor Arnab Goswami of Republic TV, promoted by BJP MP Rajeev Chandrashekhar.
• The government also terminated the membership of other dissenters who objected to the plan of establishing a Museum of Prime Ministers in Teenmurti Bhavan. Economist Nitin Desai, former bureaucrat BP Singh and academic Udayon Misra, whose terms would have ended in April, 2020, were eased out last month in October, 2018.
• The government nominated Ram Bahadur Rai, S. Jaishankar and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, a BJP Member of the Rajya Sabha, besides Goswami, as new members.
• The NMML website on November 11, 2018 confirms that the last annual report put on the website under the administrator-director pertains to 2015-16.
• 265 events were held at NMML in the last 18 months of the UPA. Only one Union Minister, Jairam Ramesh, participated in a discussion.
• 152 events were held at NMML during the 18-month period between January, 2017 and May, 2018. At least 50 of them were attended by Union Ministers, BJP chief ministers and top RSS functionaries.
• A survey by The Indian Express shows that at least 100 of the 265 events under the UPA saw participation by women scholars. In comparison, a woman was the main speaker in only 15 of the 152 events held at NMML between January, 2017 and May, 2018.
• NMML, under the new dispensation, has hosted think tanks like India Foundation run by BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav, Vivekananda International Foundation linked to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Research Foundation run by Anirban Ganguly, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini with Sahasrabuddhe as the director besides other think tanks close to the RSS such as Vision India Foundation, Think India, etc.
• Contrary to the propaganda unleashed by the RSS and the BJP, NMML never confined itself to the works of only Jawaharlal Nehru. It, in fact, published selected works of Jayaprakash Narayan among other leaders during the UPA period. Jaswant Singh’s book on MA Jinnah was released at NMML. And NMML collected a whole lot of literature on the RSS and Savarkar as well — all before 2014.