Dr.Shiben Krishen Raina

Legacy Altered: Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Gets a New Name 

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This endeavor seeks to highlight the stories of leaders who have steered India through different periods, each leaving an indelible mark on the nation's achievements.

By diversifying the memorial’s landscape and establishing separate memorials for various Prime Ministers within a single museum, the aim is to offer visitors, researchers, and scholars a holistic perspective on India’s political evolution in one place. This endeavor seeks to highlight the stories of leaders who have steered India through different periods, each leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s achievements.

The name of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML), situated in the three-building complex of Teen MurtiBhavan in Delhi, has been changed to ‘Prime Minister’s Museum and Library Society.’ This decision by the central government has been criticized by several opposition parties, including the Congress. The building, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in 1929-30, originally served as the official residence of the last British Commander-in-Chief and was known as Teen Murti House. After India gained independence, it became the residence of the country’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

Jawaharlal Nehru resided here for around 16 years, and after his passing away, the government decided to transform Teen Murti House into a museum and library in his honor. The inauguration took place on November 14, 1964, by then-President SarvepalliRadhakrishnan. The Nehru Memorial Museum and Library Society (NMML) was established in 1966 to manage it. This institution, under the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, serves as an autonomous organization where journalists, authors, researchers, and others study materials related to historical and social subjects. It hosts high-level national and international seminars on contemporary topics from time to time. I, too, had the proud privilege of attending and reading out my papers here on a couple of occasions in the past.

The Executive Council of NMML approved the establishment of a comprehensive museum dedicated to all Prime Ministers in place of ‘Nehru SmarakSangrahalaya’ in 2016. The decision to change its name was taken on June 16, 2023. The government’s intention behind this change likely stems from the idea that since multiple Prime Ministers have served the country and made valuable contributions to nation-building, why have a museum named after only one Prime Minister? Instead, it might be better to establish separate memorials for different Prime Ministers in one place and thus provide respect to all of them at a single museum. This would allow visitors, researchers, and scholars to access information and materials related to all our former Prime Ministers in one place.

Though the decision to change the name of NMML by the government has raised controversy, the fact of the matter is that the decision to rename NMML as the ‘Prime Minister’s Museum and Library Society’ stems from a nuanced perspective that invites contemplation. With a variety of Prime Ministers having led the nation since its inception, the government’s rationale is founded upon the idea of inclusiveness and representation. In a nation where multiple leaders have played pivotal roles in shaping India’s destiny, the notion of having a singular memorial dedicated to one Prime Minister only can be seen as a departure from the collective contributions of many.

The essence of this transformation lies in the aspiration to create a comprehensive museum that salutes the efforts, dedication, and vision of all Prime Ministers who have served the nation. By diversifying the memorial’s landscape and establishing separate memorials for various Prime Ministers within a single museum, the aim is to offer visitors, researchers, and scholars a holistic perspective on India’s political evolution in one place. This endeavor seeks to highlight the stories of leaders who have steered India through different periods, each leaving an indelible mark on the nation’s achievements.

The writer is a former Fellow IIAS, Shimla, Ex-Senior Fellow, Ministry of Culture (Govt. of India). [email protected]

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