In a note of 10 June, addressed to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is also minister of culture, a group of scholars and academics urge him to immediately set into motion the steps necessary to revive the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in New Delhi. They observe that until the 1990s the NMML was a centre of scholarship and research, but that in recent years, however, the institution has precipitously declined. In their note, the scholars trace the causes of the decline of the NMML and outline a constructive charter for its renewal. Edited excerpts from the letter.
On behalf of the community of scholars and writers, we urge you to take the necessary steps necessary to save one of India’s great national institutions. This is the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library (NMML). Once a vigorous centre of intellectual work, and a byword for excellence, it is now trapped in a culture of apathy and mediocrity. Over the past few years, the decline of the NMML has led to a deep feeling of dismay in the academic community. Given its pivotal place in scholarly life, its fate may well determine the future of the humanities and the social sciences in India. Were the NMML to continue on its current downward slide, it would bring to an end a great tradition of scholarship and research on Indian history and culture.
Over the past 18 months, distinguished members of the scholarly community, including some former Senior Fellows, have several times addressed these concerns tothe management of the NMML. In March 2008, a long note describing the deterioration in the NMML and prescribing ways to arrest it was prepared by seven former Fellowsand sent to all members of the EC. Among the authors of this note were Sumit Sarkar, Neera Chandhoke, Mahesh Rangarajan, and Ramachandra Guha. In May 2009, a letter of protest at the shocking suspension of the Deputy Director was sent to the EC. This letter was signed by more than 40 scholars, among them Rajmohan Gandhi, Mushirul Hasan, Sunil Khilnani, Krishna Kumar, and Geeta Kapur. The letter observed that “this draconian decision has sent tremors through the dedicated staff, many of whom – seeing the treatment of a senior and respected colleague – now live and work in fear, scarcely a conducive atmosphere for an institution of such importance”.