Barring historians, scholars and serious students of modern Indian history who are regular visitors to Teen Murti House and who have a fair idea of what is on offer, everyone else, including the aam aadmi is certain to be utterly confused about the activities of The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML) Society that runs the place. The cacophonous debate over the future of this Society and its plans for development have drowned out saner voices and resulted in needless controversies and disinformation with regard to the activities of this institution, which will celebrate its golden jubilee next year. At the heart of this political wrangle is propaganda that the NMML Society’s remit is confined to Nehru, his papers, his thoughts, his family and nothing else. Second, that the key personalities of the so-called Right can have no place in the NMML premises.
Some facts about how this institution was conceived and run over the last 49 years should not only set the record straight but also help the general public wade through the disinformation and get closer to the truth. As decided by its founders, the NMML Society has three main constituents: a Nehru memorial museum; a library on modern India; and a centre for research in modern Indian history. These are the three main functions of the institution. The NMML’s Memorandum of Association mandates the institution to acquire, maintain and preserve papers of nationalist leaders of modern India and other eminent Indians who distinguished themselves in any field. It is also called upon to organise lectures and seminars to encourage the study of modern Indian history. Further, it has the responsibility to maintain a library of books, pamphlets among other things and other materials bearing on the history of modern India, with special reference to the freedom movement. In addition, the society has to institute fellowships and maintain records of non-official organisations and associations.
As the society’s remit covers such a wide range of activities specific to modern Indian history, it has, despite the resistance from some individuals claiming proprietorial rights over the institution, carried on its task as ordained by the society’s founders. Since modern Indian history is central to the institution’s work, the NMML Library has diligently gone about collecting manuscripts, personal papers and published works of individuals and documents pertaining to institutions. Notwithstanding the myopic view, intellectual dishonesty and pressures from leftist academicians and some members of the Nehruvian school, the society has had curators who have remained loyal to the Memorandum of Association. That is why the library boasts of material pertaining to icons of the so-called Right. These include personal papers and letters written by Dr Hedgewar, the founder of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS); Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar (Guru Golwalkar), who succeeded Hedgewar as Sarsanghchalak of the RSS in 1940 and headed the organisation for over three decades; Dr B S Moonje, who was the President of the Hindu Mahasabhaand; Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the leader of the Hindu Mahasabha and founder of the Jana Sangh.
The institution papers in the possession of the library include that of the All India Hindu Mahasabha. The library has published works of Mr Deendayal Upadhyaya, the co-founder of the Jana Sangh and its chief ideologue. The material available in the library is documented in the publication NMML Manuscripts: An Introduction, brought out by the institution.
Some excerpts from this publication are listed below: The library has 949 letters written by Dr Hedgewar to various individuals in Marathi and English between 1903-37. These documents, which were donated by the Shri Guruji Smriti-Sankalan Samithi, are valuable because of Dr Hedgewar’s political activities during that period, including his participation in the Home Rule campaign in 1918. He organised the volunteer corps at the Nagpur Session of the Congress and was jailed for his involvement in the non-cooperation movement in 1921. He founded the RSS in 1925. Dr Moonje’s papers include his diaries between 1926-36, his correspondence with various personalities prior to 1936 with considerable material on the affairs of the Hindu Mahasabha. Dr Moonje lived with Mahatma Gandhi in Durban, took part in the Home Rule Movement and was a member of the Central Legislative Assembly. He also headed the Hindu Mahasabha.
On Guru Golwalkar, the material available includes his correspondence with Hedgewar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Govinda Menon, Babasaheb Apte and many others. The letters deal chiefly with the activities and organisational work of the RSS. Interestingly, the Golwalkar Papers were handed over to the library by the person in-charge of the RSS office in New Delhi.
The library boasts of a huge collection of papers pertaining to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, running to 70,000 pages. These papers, which include over 3,000 letters, speeches and writings and press clippings, were gifted to the library by Justice Rama Prasad Mookerjee and Mr Uma Prasad Mookerjee. It has the exchange of correspondence between Dr Mookerjee and Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Sir M Visveswaraya and many others. The library states that a bulk of these papers pertain to the Bengal Legislative Assembly, the Constituent Assembly, Hindu Mahasabha, the Wavell Plan, the partition of Bengal, Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination, and the formation of the Jana Sangh. It also includes his diaries between 1939-46. These papers are of immense value to students of modern Indian history because of Dr Mookerjee’s extraordinary life and achievements. He became Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University at the age of 33; was Member of the Bengal Legislative Council, the Constituent Assembly and the first Lok Sabha. He was Finance Minister in Bengal and later, the Union Minister for Industry and Supply. He resigned from the Nehru Cabinet over the Nehru-Liaqat Pact in 1950 and went on to launch the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS), which in later years became the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Given these facts, the controversy whipped up in some quarters over an exhibition at the NMML outlining the life and work of Deendayal Upadhyaya, seems rather silly. Mr Upadhyaya joined Dr Mookerjee to launch the Bharatiya Jana Sangh, became the party’s first General Secretary and chief ideologue. His mantra of Integral Humanism and his concept of Antyodayais at the core of the policies pursued by India’s largest political party — the BJP — today and his imprint is already there in many socio-economic programmes launched by the Narendra Modi Government at the Centre.
So, the question really is not why the Sangh Parivar is now visible in these precincts. We need to ask why members of this political family stayed away from the NMML all these years when the library had such a wealth of original material on their icons?
The author is chairperson of Prasar Bharati.