TIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Mahatma Gandhi first visited Kerala in 1920, to garner support for the Khilafat movement. He returned on four more occasions, with the last visit coming in 1937. Today, the records of those visits, photographs and other memorabilia are scattered all over the state, many of them subjected to the ravages of time. The State Archives Department has decided to launch a project under its Community Archives programme to trace them and create a register so that future generations are not deprived of this treasure trove.
“For example, the Vinoba Niketan in Thiruvananthapuram district has in its possession records related to Mahatma Gandhi. So does the Sree Narayana Ashram, Payyannur, where he visited. Many such records and other memorabilia could be in the possession of private individuals. We are trying to ensure their proper conservation,” Archives director P Biju said. During his historic visits, Gandhi has met social reformers like Sree Narayana Guru and Ayyankali, planted trees and addressed gatherings, and interacted with school children.
“The documents pertaining to his visits are valuable records. Subject to the owner’s permission, they can also be made available to researchers,” Biju said. The department’s aim is three-fold; digitise the content, initiate a conservation programme to preserve the document and create a register of the finds so that they can be traced easily in future.
The Community Archives programme is aimed at identifying and preserving important historical records in the possession of individuals and non-government agencies. Those who wish to donate the manuscripts can do so, but that is voluntary. The Mahatma Gandhi project is also part of a larger movement by the state government to create awareness about Gandhi’s visits to Kerala. Last January 30, Cultural Affairs Minister A K Balan had announced his department’s intention to organise programmes to retrace the journeys made by Gandhi to 37 locations in the state.