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What’s fishy at Nehru Memorial? A timeline of its making and unmaking

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Nehru Memorial Museum Library

Jawaharlal Nehru, widely regarded as the architect of modern India, had deep affection and regard for literature and scholarship. The Nehru Memorial Museum & Library (NMML) here bears this out, but has been the subject of much controversy during the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led dispensation. Critics say that the government is “diluting” Nehrus legacy by changing the character of his memorial whereas the government has maintained that it is only “upgrading” it.

The NMML is housed in Teen Murti Bhavan, located south of Rashtrapati Bhavan, and was designed by Robert Tor Russell. It was built in 1929-30 as part of Edwin Lutyens’ imperial capital and was initially the official residence of the Commander-in-Chief in India. In August 1948, after the departure of the last British Commander-in-Chief, Teen Murti Bhavan became the official residence of independent India’s first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru.

It remained Nehru’s residence for 16 years until his death in May 1964; and barely six months after his demise, S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India, formally inaugurated the Nehru Memorial Museum in November 1964. Despite several additions and changes on the official website of NMML in recent months, it still acknowledges that the Government of India decided that the Teen Murti House should be dedicated to him (Nehru) and house a museum and a library.

An exclusive library building was constructed a decade later to make it a place of pilgrimage for the Indian masses on the one hand and a premier research centre for intellectual activity on the other. It was inaugurated by V.V. Giri, then President of India, in January 1974. The steady increase in the volume of research material further necessitated the construction of an annexe, which was completed in 1989. The Centre for Contemporary Studies was set up as a new unit of NMML in this building in 1990.

Over the next two decades, the NMML fast emerged as a premier institution of research on Indian history but never before had it faced an unrest comparable to what emerged after the rise of Narendra Modi and the BJP at the Centre in 2014.

The turmoil began as early as September 2015 when Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said that the appointment of Mahesh Rangarajan as the director of NMML during the Manmohan Singh led-United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was “unethical and illegal”; this was followed by the latter’s resignation.

Founded as an autonomous institution, the General Council, President and the Vice-President of the NMML are nominated by the central government.

The NMML remained headless for almost a year but saw another controversy when a new director was appointed. Shakti Sinha, who was a private secretary to Atal Bihari Vajpayee when he headed the first BJP-led government at the Centre, was appointed as the new director of NMML in August 2016. Within days, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a member of the executive committee (EC), resigned from his post citing that rules were tweaked to appoint Sinha as the director.

Ironically, the advertisement (in picture) for the post of the director said that the Executive Council of NMML is the “Appointing Authority”, but Mehta alleged that, according to the rules, only a scholar or writer could occupy the top post of NMML whereas the government tweaked it to allow an administrator (Sinha) to apply for it. Mehta maintains that the advertisement was never approved by the Executive Council.

Nonetheless, Sinha’s appointment was the opening of the pandora’s box as controversies continue to surface at India’s premier research institution. On a new section recently added on its website, NMML says that it “reflects the democratic system of India” and “has been tasked by the Government of India to set up a New Museum on Prime Ministers of India”.

Also Read : Denigrating Nehru is like throwing pebbles at a mountain: Shashi Tharoor

This faced intense criticism from Congress leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who, in a letter, urged his successor Narendra Modi to “leave the Teen Murti Complex undisturbed as it is” and reminding him that it is “a memorial to our first Prime Minister Pandit Nehru. This way we will be respecting both history and heritage”. The Opposition suspected that a plan was underway to change NMML into a Museum of all Prime Ministers of India.

In this context, Sinha, speaking earlier to IANS, said that the motive was to upgrade the NMML. “Even though NMML is not only limited to Nehru in its current form, the upgrade will see a greater representation of all former PMs, including Manmohan Singh,” Sinha had said.

The government said that it was not changing NMML but merely building another museum inside the premises of the Teen Murti estate. Critics hit back saying that the proposed museum could be built anywhere else in the capital, but building it inside the premises of Teen Murti Bhavan would be changing the existing character of NMML.

The government, it turned out, was bent on its purpose. But where is the space for a new museum in Teen Murti estate? Are you going to cut down the trees?

In a surprise move, the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, chaired by Sonia Gandhi and housed in the Teen Murti estate, was asked by Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in September to vacate the premises on grounds of “unauthorised occupation”. The letter said that NMML is in “dire need of space” and alleged that the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund is occupying the premises “without any authority of law”.

Responding to the notice, N. Balakrishnan, Administrative Secretary of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, refuted its premise and asked that it be withdrawn. The five-page response noted that the premises has been in its occupation since 1967, and has “remained unchallenged and never questioned and has been cemented”.

Even as there was (and is) no clarity over where the proposed museum would be built, the foundation stone for the “Museum of Prime Ministers” was laid on Oct 15 by Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma and Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs Hardeep Singh Puri.

(Saket Suman can be contacted at [email protected])

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Once dreaded ‘queen of outlaws’ Phoolan now a ‘veerangana’

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

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phoolan devi Bandit Queen

Bandit queen-turned-politician Phoolan Devi has been conferred the title of ‘veerangana’ (a brave warrior) by the Eklavya Welfare Society in Jalaun district.

Phoolan’s native village Garha Ka Purwa is located in Jalaun district and the Eklavya Welfare Society represents the Nishad community to which Phoolan belonged.

“The title of Veerangna has been conferred on Phoolan Devi because she was a true warrior — she fought for her honour and later, for the welfare of the oppressed.

“She deserves her and the young generations need to be told about her contribution. We will soon install her statue here,” said Gopalm Nishad, a member of the Eklavya Welfare Society.

Phoolan Devi, a bandit in the ravines across Uttar Pradesh and present Chhattisgarh and also Madhya Pradesh, had hit the headlines when she massacred 22 Thakurs in Behmai in Kanpur in February 1981 to avenge her sexual exploitation by a Thakur gang led by Lala Ram and Sri Ram.

In 1994, then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh withdrew the cases against Phoolan and she contested and won the Lok Sabha elections from Mirzapur in 1996 on a Samajwadi Party ticket.

Phoolan Devi emerged as an icon for the Nishad community (boatmen) but after her brutal death in 2001, the community was not given adequate representation by political parties.

The Nishad community constitutes about 4.5 per cent of the state’s population and are known to be among the Most Backward Castes (MBC).

The Nishad community has a sizeable population in about 40 assembly segments. Since the past one decade, they are trying to be included in the Scheduled Caste’s category but their demand has been caught in legal hassles.

An attempt was made to install Phoolan’s statue in Gorakhpur in 2016 but the attempt was foiled by the district administration that claimed that requisite permission for same had not been obtained.

The issue had revived an intense caste war between OBCs and MBCs in Uttar Pradesh.

Last year, Phoolan’s mother, Moola Devi, 90, who still lives in the village in abject poverty, had released the Chambal Manifesto on the eve of Lok Sabha elections to press for development of the Chambal region.

The 4-page manifesto was a compilation of the demands for the region which included the formation of the Chambal Commission for a scientific study of the issues and challenges faced by the people living in Chambal region along with solutions.

More than 40 years after she picked up the gun and turned into a bandit, following a dispute over four bighas of land with her cousin Maya Din, Phoolan Devi’s family in her native village in Jalaun district is still waiting to reclaim that elusive piece of land.

Meanwhile, the land that was initially owned by Phoolan’s father, Devi Din Mallah, and after his death, it still eludes her mother Moola Devi as the rightful owner.

Maya Din, son of late Devi Din’s elder brother allegedly grabbed the plot and did not allow Phoolan’s mother to till the land. Maya Din claimed the land was passed on to him as legacy.

Moola Devi said, “My daughter Phoolan fought with Maya Din for this land. Maya Din and his men ridiculed her and hurled abuses at her. She got together some girls from the village and staged a dharna on the land. The village elders tried to remove her from the land but failed. Then Maya Din hurled a brick at her and she fell unconscious. After this, she became a ‘baaghi’ (rebel).”

It is said that Maya Din ‘sold’ her off to Lal Ram and Shri Ram — heads of a Thakur gang of dacoits — who not only raped her but also held her captive.

A few years later, Phoolan Devi fell in love with another dacoit Vikram Mallah, who was later killed by the Lala Ram and Shri Ram gang.

To avenge the wrong done to her by the Thakur gang, Phoolan Devi gradually built up her own gang and the rest, as they say, is history.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities: Theme, Date and history of the day

International Day of Persons with Disabilities: It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

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International Day of Persons with Disabilities

International Day of Persons with Disabilities is an international observance promoted by the United Nations since 1992. It is celebrated on December 3 all around the world. It aims to increase public awareness, understanding and acceptance of people with disabilities and celebrate their achievements and contributions.

IDPD mobilizes support for critical issues relating to the inclusion of persons with disabilities, promotes awareness-raising about disability issues and draws attention to the benefits of an inclusive and accessible society for all.

UN agencies, civil society organizations, academic institutions and the private sector are motivated to support IDPD by collaborating with organizations for people with disabilities to arrange events and activities.

International Day of People with Disability: Theme

The theme for IDPwD 2020 is “Building Back Better: toward a disability-inclusive, accessible and sustainable post COVID-19 World”.

Every year the UN announces a theme to observe for International Day of People with Disability. The annual theme provides an overarching focus on how society can strive for inclusivity through the removal of physical, technological and attitudinal barriers for people with disabilities.

This has been occurring since 1992 when the General Assembly announced 3 December as the International Day of Disabled Persons.

National Disability Strategy 2010–2020

In Australia, the National Disability Strategy 2010–2020 commits all governments to a nationwide approach aimed at improving the lives of disabled people, their families and carers.

The Strategy’s ten-year national framework for reform concentrates on better inclusion for people with disabilities and seeks to create a society that enables people with disabilities to fulfill their potential as equal citizens.

On the 2012 International Day of People with Disability, the United Kingdom government introduced mandatory work for disabled people who received welfare benefits in order to “Improve disabled peoples chances of getting work by mandatory employment”.

A program is also launched on December 3 across India to serve the differently-able community of the country as an initiative called Accessible India Campaign under the Article 9 of UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

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BJP leaders brainstorm for second day, say govt ready for talks with farmers

Union Home Minister Amit Shah met Agriculture Minister Narender Singh Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam.

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Farmers on Protest

Eager to break the deadlock with famers who are agitating for scrapping the new farm laws, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership held meetings for a second consecutive day on Monday and sent out the message that the Union government is ready for talks.

Union home minister Amit Shah met Union minister for agriculture, NS Tomar earlier in the day to discuss the strategy to break the logjam. A senior party functionary said, “The message from the top is clear that the laws are not anti-farmers and that the farmers are being misled. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated that laws will offer better opportunity for the farmers.”

The functionary said the government is ready to sit across the table and discuss the new laws and “address whatever concerns” the farmers have.

Speaking in Varanasi, the PM on Monday said the laws have given farmers new options and legal protection. He lashed out at the opposition for “misleading” the farmers and said earlier decisions of government were opposed now rumours have become the basis for opposition and propaganda is being served even though the laws favour the farmers.

The party has also opted for a cautious, measured response to the agitation. Even though it is pinning the blame on the opposition for provoking the protest, it is taking care not to rile the farmers. “The farmers are innocent. They are being misled by those with vested interests. The laws have barely been implemented and their impact is yet to be ascertained, so how can people rush to call these anti-farmers,” said Rajkuamr Chahar, head of the BJP’s Kisan Morcha.

He said the Punjab unit of the Morcha has been communicating with the farmers’ representatives and has relayed the government’s willingness to address their concerns.

On Monday, even as the party tried to diffuse the anger against the bills, its ally the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) joined the chorus for the rollback of the laws. Rajasthan lawmaker and RLP chief, Hanuman Beniwal, shot off a letter to Shah, seeking the reversal of the laws.

“….In view of the countrywide sentiment in support of the ongoing farmers’ movement, the recently introduced three bills related to agriculture should be immediately withdrawn. (The Centre must) implement all recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, and immediately hold dialogue with farmers in Delhi,” he said.

The BJP, however, played down the ally’s demand. Its national spokesperson on economic issues, Gopal Krishna Agarwal said, “We assure all, including our NDA partners that farmers’ well-being and welfare are in our heart. Large scale market reforms are needed and that has always been the consensus.”

He went on to add that while the BJP opposes misgivings about the APMC mandis being dismantled and MSP being withdrawn, the opposition is politicizing the issue along with the Arhtiyas (commission agents) and middleman.

“We have offered all the basic facilities to farmers, drinking water, toilets, shelters and medical facilities. They have been given permission to protest and also been invited for dialogue. We are open for all discussions on the merits or demerits of the three bills. If farmers have certain serious concerns, we are ready to listen to them,” he said.

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