A day after Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) Society met for its annual general meeting, NMML Director Shakti Sinha and Congress leader Jairam Ramesh disagreed over exactly what went on behind closed doors.
While Sinha claimed that the proposed museum for all Prime Ministers was given the go-ahead from the majority of members who attended, Ramesh, historian Nayanjot Lahiri and other members that The Indian Express spoke to said that there was no vote taken at the meeting to come to such a conclusion.
There was even contention over how many people attended the meeting: Sinha said 21. One member said only 19 of 34 members of NMML Society attended the meeting, of which seven expressed some form of reservation over the proposed museum, with one member even pointing out that the concept note circulated was “factually incorrect”.
Three members who could not attend the meeting wrote expressing their opposition to the museum. One of them who did not wish to be named said: “There is support since many of the members are government functionaries and will obviously agree to such a proposal.”
On Friday, Ramesh wrote to Sinha, pointing out that his statement on the deliberations in the AGM were “misleading” and “inaccurate”. “Nobody gave any approval to anything last evening at the NMML Society meeting,” he said.
Sinha responded that his comments were based on NMML Society chairman’s “summing up statement” at the meeting and Ramesh was “free to point out errors” when the draft minutes are circulated among the members.
At the meeting, historian Lahiri also flagged the “pathetic” condition of the existing museum dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru, pointing out that it was “unlikely” that renovations will be completed by this year-end as the NMML director had assured the society in the previous meeting. “…the state of the museum, to put it charitably, is pathetic,” said a note she read out in Thursday’s meeting. “The only room which has been renovated in great style is the new room of the Chairman! The first floor, as of the moment, has not seen any renovation. But its most popular installation which has the reconstructed Central Hall of Parliament with a life-sized Nehru and other leaders is shut,” the note said.
Pointing to the proposed changes to the Memorandum of Association, Lahiri’s note said: “I get a sense from the state of things in the museum, that there is a systematic attempt to whittle down Prime Minister Nehru’s legacy partly through neglect, and partly through cutting down the exhibition space for his life and times in this building. Changing the Memorandum would further aggravate this state of affairs.” Citing examples of museums elsewhere in the world, she noted that a separate museum body should be set up.
Sinha told The Indian Express that though a vote was not taken in the meeting, majority of members supported the proposal. “It was decided that objections will be taken note of and that Nehru’s legacy (the museum) will be modernised and made better. My interpretation was that though it was not discussed point-by-point, the majority of members endorsed the museum for all Prime Ministers,” he told The Indian Express. A wider concept note will be shared with the members, he added.