Entry into the art gallery at India International Centre, Delhi, begins on a rather patriotic tone. The national flag, replete with a few holes and a muddy look, with a huge spinning wheel drawn in the centre, dating back to the freedom struggle under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership, greets viewers. Among the black-and-white collage on 27 panels is a 1915 photo of a turbaned Gandhi, fully clothed in a kurta and dhoti, posing alongside his wife Kasturba, when he returned from South Africa to India, after fighting discriminatory laws in the foreign country.
A replica of a pen used by Gandhi, who would write as many as 80 letters a day, to communicate with his friends and fellow country men, can also be spotted. There is also his portrait captured in Champaran, Bihar, in 1917, where he launched his first satyagraha. Another frame captures the moment he embraced the loin-cloth and discarded the cap, shirt and dhoti, in Madurai in 1921.
“Gandhi’s Vision: Freedom and Beyond” brought together by National Gandhi Museum, is an exhibition that documents the country’s freedom struggle under Gandhi and brings forward his vision of a free India. “The idea behind this exhibition was that since we are celebrating 70 years of India’s independence, we thought of chronicling the main events leading towards it and Gandhi’s ideology,” says curator Aparna Basu, Chairperson of National Gandhi Museum, and former professor of History at the University of Delhi.
Gandhi can be seen addressing a huge pool of people, where the crowd swelled to 10,000. They had gathered on the banks of the Sabarmati in Ahmedabad on the eve of the salt march in March, 1930. A mass protest during the Quit India Movement in 1942, has at the centre a long serpentile queue of women dressed in saris marching on the roads in Mumbai (then Bombay).
“Thousands of women had joined in during the salt satyagraha as well. Seventeen per cent of those arrested were women. Some were just imprisoned for one day and then let go as the police did not want to keep so many women. Many women would go from door to door selling khadi and salt. In Mumbai, hundreds of women went to Chowpatty with little pots to collect sea water, which they would burn on a lamp, to illegally manufacture salt,” says Basu.
Children belonging to scheduled castes are seen enjoying the company of the leader in a photograph dating back to 1934, while he stands tall next to a common well built for all in 1933. He can be seen fasting for Hindu Muslim unity in 1924.
“The issues that he stressed on are relevant even today. He favoured a pluralistic India with respect for each other’s religion, a casteless society and removal of untouchability. Even 70 years later, one hears about atrocities against Dalits every other day. Although we have reservations and quotas for the scheduled castes, there is still a lot of casteism in the country,” says Basu.
The exhibition at the India International Centre, Delhi, is till August 21